Plans to increase military research funding were on the agenda when the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence met in Brussels on Monday (13 October 2014). This committee is made up of thirty MEPs who meet to scrutinise the EU’s security and defence policy. I attended their meeting as an observer representing QCEA.
This meeting followed on from the European Council meeting in December 2013, at which European heads of government agreed in principle to increased European collaboration on military research. The European Commission and the European Defence Agency are now looking at how this could be achieved. Currently, the EU funds research mainly through its multi-billion-euro grant programme Horizon 2020. While technically, it is against EU law to fund military research through Horizon 2020, the European Commission is seeking to work around the law by arranging to fund “dual-use” research, i.e. research with both military and non-military applications.
At Monday’s meeting, MEPs heard that the European Commission is also proposing to launch a new, separate scheme in 2017, specifically to fund military research — this would be the first EU funding scheme with that purpose. In the longer term, the European Commission is planning for the successor programme to Horizon 2020 to include military research funding as part of the EU’s general research funding budget, starting in 2021. These proposals were generally well received, with only two MEPs (Bodil Ceballos from Sweden, and Sabine Lösing from Germany) raising serious objections.
This is all part of a worrying long-term trend towards the militarisation of the EU. The project of European integration was founded in the 1950s as a peace project, and perhaps its greatest achievement has been to make war within the EU unthinkable. Yet in recent years there has been a trend for European cooperation to become increasingly militarised, and Monday’s events show that this trend is set to continue. With the European Council, the European Commission, and the European Defence Agency all behind the new proposals, and with few objections from MEPs, it is clear which way the wind is blowing.
What are the motives behind the militarisation of the EU? The conclusions of the December 2013 meeting of the European Council provide two main arguments for militarising the EU: it helps to maintain peace and security, and it brings economic benefits by keeping the EU’s arms industry competitive. But surely there are better ways to achieve peace, security, and prosperity.
If we are seeking peace, then we could fund research that analyses the underlying causes of conflict, and initiatives to promote dialogue and mutual understanding. If we are seeking security, then we need to ask ourselves what we are trying to secure ourselves against — most of the threats people face are non-military threats, such as poverty, disease, crime, and environmental degradation. We improve our security far better by funding medical research (to protect ourselves against disease) or renewable energy research (to protect ourselves against the consequences of climate change) than by funding research into more effective ways of killing people. And if we are seeking prosperity, then certainly there are many alternatives to subsidising arms manufacturers.
QCEA will continue to oppose the militarisation of the EU, and to work towards an alternative vision for Europe. We invite all Europeans to do the same.