Defence industry dominates EU’s security research programme

25 September 2009
Press release
The NeoConOpticon report, released by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Statewatch, reveals the extent to which Europe’s largest defence and IT contractors are benefiting from a €1.4 billion EU “security research” programme that has the explicit aim of fostering a European Homeland Security industry to compete globally with the USA in a fast growing market.

The NeoConOpticon report, released today by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Statewatch, reveals the extent to which Europe’s largest defence and IT contractors are benefiting from a €1.4 billion EU “security research” programme that has the explicit aim of fostering a European Homeland Security industry to compete globally with the USA in a fast growing market.

“The whole process appears to have been designed by lobbyists, for lobbyists“, says Ben Hayes, TNI associate and author of the report. “In its desire to increase ‘industrial competitiveness’, the EU has effectively outsourced the design of the security research agenda to the very corporations that have the most to gain from its implementation”.

Defence giants including Thales, Finmeccanica, EADS, Saab and Sagem Défénsé Sécurité are amongst a host of corporations to which the European Commission has turned to help set the agenda for security research, develop Homeland Security strategies for Europe, and bring the relevant security technologies ‘to market’. Of 46 security research contracts awarded in the first year of the EU’s Framework Programme (FP7, the Union’s research programme for 2007-2013), 17 (or 37%) are led by defence sector contractors.

The report also reveals the extent of Israel’s participation in the EU security research programme, which is controversial in the light of widespread criticism of Israel's human rights record. Israeli actors or entities are participating in 10 of the first 46 projects, leading four of them. The Counter Terrorism Bureau of Israel’s National Security Council, the Israeli Defence Force and the Israeli emergency services are among the security experts selected to advise the working groups of the European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIF).

There has been only minimal democratic scrutiny of the programme and very little monitoring of its implementation. The design of the ESRP has been outsourced through sub-contracting and the creation of ad hoc EU groups comprised of government officials, security ‘experts’ and companies selling homeland security products.

“There is, of course, nothing new about governments consulting about policy, particularly at the EU level, but while corporations have been embraced by the ESRP, parliaments and civil society have been largely excluded. The process has been wholly undemocratic,” says Hayes.

The ESRP is promoting the development of a range of technologies that could engender systematic violations of fundamental rights, according to the report. They include militarised border controls, surveillance and profiling technologies, the widespread collection and analysis of personal data, automated targeting systems, satellite and space-based surveillance, and ‘crisis management’ tools. While these high-tech systems can be used for ostensibly positive purposes such as environmental observation and traffic control, they also represent an unprecedented state intrusion into every sphere of daily life.

“It is not just a case of “sleepwalking into a surveillance society”, concludes Hayes, “it feels more like turning a blind eye to the start of a new kind of arms race, one in which all the weapons are pointing inwards.”

The research examined all 95 of the projects funded under the EU security research programme to the end of 2008, together with several thousand related EU-funded R&D projects from other thematic programmes.