Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Defence integration – the next steps

Earlier this month, I wrote a sardonic report on the commission’s announcement that it was to spend €15 million on "security research" in the "fight against terrorism".

Since then, I had a more careful look at the 13 projects that the commission proposes to fund and, on careful analysis, found that many of them are not so much "security" orientated as defence projects. To be more specific, they are "dual use", in that the technology is equally usable for civilian and military applications.

It then turns out that this is no coincidence. The EU, in pursuit of its military ambitions, is deliberately blurring the boundaries between civil and military research in order to justify military research spending that, strictly, is not authorised by any of the treaties.

One of the milestones in this progression came in 2001 by the commission of the European Advisory Group on Aerospace, chaired by Erkki Liikanen, Member of the European Commission responsible for Enterprise Policy. Known as STAR 21, it comprised seven aerospace industry chairmen, five European Commissioners, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and two Members of the EU parliament.

Its task was to analyse the adequacy of the existing political and regulatory framework for aerospace in Europe, to highlight deficiencies and to make proposals for further improvement and it reported in June 2002 with its Strategic Aerospace review for the 21st Century.

Amongst other things, it noted that the US had made the greatest advances in building this electronic environment needed in modern warfare, and in development and deployment of unmanned systems. "Unless Europe can build its own independent capability in this area, albeit at an affordable lower capability level," the Group said, "there will be severe limitations both in terms of being able to play a significant role in military operations alongside the US or, most significantly, being able to mount independent actions."

"European freedom of action," it added, "comes at a price in terms of the appropriate equipping of European armed forces as well as the creation of a strong industrial and technological base. This is why decisions on the level of national spending on defence equipment, re-setting of priorities within existing defence budgets and the appropriate response to new threats should all be approached in a European context."

Pooled defence R&D projects should be expanded and should include large collaborative demonstrator programmes which bring together activities from different Member States to create a strong defence research framework. The “ultimate goal” was a European armaments policy to provide structure for European defence and security equipment markets, and to allow a sustainable and competitive technological and industrial base. That included the harmonisation of military requirements and planning of procurement budgets and of arms procurement.

This was followed by another report, commissioned by Romano Prodi, which was published in early 2004. Called " Research for a secure Europe", this was a report of the "Group of Personalities" in the field of security research, headed by commissioner Philippe Busquin, then responsible for research, and Erkki Likanen, responsible for "Enterprise and the information society".

In it the authors argued that "civil, security and defence applications increasingly draw on the same technological base" and that that "artificial" dividing line between defence and civil research should be abolished. There should, instead, be a "European Security Research Programme" (ESRP) to "take advantage” of the "duality of technologies and the growing overlap of security functions".

Furthermore, the added, when it came to "critical technologies", viz à viz the United States, "Europe should aim for an indigenous competitive capability, even if this meant duplication of effort". However, this should only mean duplication of the US effort. Within the EU, research should be effectively co-ordinated "to improve the coherence of European efforts".

Already acting on this, the Commission in February 2004 published a "communication" (COM(2004)72 final) on "the implementation of the Preparatory Action on the enhancement of the European industrial potential in the field of Security research".

Entitled: "Towards a programme to advance European security through Research and Technology", it set up a list of projects – a "preparatory action" - which the EU ought to be funding. To do so, it relied on Article 157 of the Treaty, under the aegis of fostering "better exploitation of the industrial policies of innovation, research and technological development", but also noted that "the legal basis for such a programme will be decided on…", not least having regard to the EU constitution.

In September 2004, this was followed by another "communication" (COM(2004) 590 final), entitled "Security Research – the next steps". This picked up on the "Group of Personalities" report, recommending the establishment of a European Security Research Programme (ESRP) with, from 2007 onwards, funding of at least €1 billion a year from the Research Framework Programme and the creation of a "European Security Research Advisory Board".

Thus, the stage had been set for the next major move in defence integration. Through the European Defence Agency, an agency had been put in place progressively to harmonise military requirements and set up "European projects". But to progress, it needed money. This was now to made available by means of the ESRP, with funds siphoned out of the forthcoming 7th Framework research budget.

Less than a year later we then see the commission announcement with which we started this piece. It is dressed up as the "fight against terrorism" and the emphasis is put on civilian use. But, like the Galileo global positioning system, it is all "dual use" technology. By any other name, it is defence spending writ large.

The Advisory Board is in place but, with the global EU budget not agreed, there is only €500 million a year, to be shared with "space research". The commission – on highly dubious legal grounds – has managed to gain a foothold in defence policy and is now ready to fund part of the European defence research programme.

It is not all there yet, but it is a start. The next steps have been taken.

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