Monday

19th Feb 2018

MEPs may bar killer drones from EU research cash

  • 'More research into drones could actually reduce the number of civilian casualties during bombardments', said one MEP, Anneleen Van Bossuyt (Photo: EADS)

Members of the European Parliament are considering whether EU taxpayer money can be used to fund the development of weapons of mass destruction, drones, and robot weapons.

Two parliament committees will vote on Tuesday (23 January) on the draft bill, proposed by the European Commission in June 2017.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The European Defence Industrial Development Programme will have €500m available for 'defence products', the European Commission proposed (Photo: NATO)

The proposed regulation would establish a €500m European Defence Industrial Development Programme, although the final figure can still be changed in negotiations between the EU institutions.

The commission did not propose clear criteria on which programmes would be eligible for EU funding, referring merely to design and prototyping of 'defence products'. The proposed regulation does not even contain the word 'weapon'.

According to some MEPs, there are some weapon categories that should not receive EU taxpayer money.

Some said that weapons of mass destruction should not be among eligible products, and nor should drones and fully autonomous weapons – often referred to informally as killer robots.

Several amendments have been tabled, adding an annex of non-eligible products to the regulation.

Banned weapons, and munitions and weapons not compliant with international humanitarian law, like cluster bombs or chemical weapons, are also proposed to be on the blacklist.

However, Anneleen Van Bossuyt is not convinced of the need for a specific list of non-eligible products, she told EUobserver in an interview in Strasbourg last week.

The Belgian centre-right MEP of the mildly eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists group is chairwoman of the parliament's internal market committee.

The text she drafted will be put to a committee vote on Tuesday, and then feed into the debate in the parliament's lead committee on the file, the industry committee.

Following publication of her draft opinion, she negotiated on compromise amendments with other groups.

One compromise amendment, supported by groups that command a majority, would introduce the condition that only projects "in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter" may be funded, while another would state they would have to be "in compliance with international law".

However, there is no international consensus on the use of armed drones and autonomous weapons.

'Humans make more mistakes'

"I do not think that drones should be excluded," said Van Bossuyt.

"I think that drones, and more research into drones, could actually reduce the number of civilian casualties during bombardments," she added.

Van Bossuyt also said that for the same reason, she did not want to exclude in advance the eligibility of autonomous systems.

"My personal conviction is that humans still make more mistakes [than machines]," she added.

Her centre-left colleague from Romania, Ioan Mircea Pascu, however, disagreed.

Pascu has also written a draft text with amendments, but for the parliament's committee on foreign affairs – the other of two texts that will be put to a vote on Tuesday.

He suggested that the defence fund should not be used to develop "fully autonomous weapons that enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention".

Pascu, a former Romanian defence minister, referred to a resolution adopted by the parliament's plenary in February 2014.

MEPs at the time called on the commission and national governments to "ban the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention".

Swedish Green MEP Bodil Valero introduced an amendment to also bar the production of armed unmanned aerial vehicles – or drones – from the fund, as long as the EU's member states have not put in place legal rules on the military use of drones.

Pascu, as well as some other MEPs, also proposed that small arms and light weapons should be excluded if these were developed mainly for export purposes.

Whether certain weapons categories will be banned from the defence fund, will depend on the final outcome of the legislative journey, which still has some steps to go.

Following the establishment of its position, the parliament will have to negotiate with the Council of the EU, where member states meet, to determine what the programme will finally look like.

The council has already agreed its position in December – an indication that member states are keen to move forward with the idea. The council has not proposed to exclude weapon categories, although it may still be convinced if a broad majority of MEPs support that notion.

The fund is part of a larger initiative which sees more EU cooperation on defence, including the set-up of a European medical command.

EU to spend €1.5bn a year on joint defence

The Commission has offered to put aside €1.5 billion a year for joint defence spending in what could be the first step toward the creation of an EU army.

EU warns Turkey over 'threat' to Cyprus

The European Commission called on Ankara to refrain from doing "damage to good neighbourly relations", after Turkish vessels stop a rig from reaching a gas drilling zone.

EU warns Turkey over 'threat' to Cyprus

The European Commission called on Ankara to refrain from doing "damage to good neighbourly relations", after Turkish vessels stop a rig from reaching a gas drilling zone.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Nord Stream 2 pipeline poses 'no danger'
  2. Spanish king in Barcelona next week
  3. Turkey jails journalists for life
  4. Make budget cuts in farm and regional funds, the Dutch say
  5. UN: Hungary's anti-migration bill is 'assault on human rights'
  6. Journalist Deniz Yucel freed in Turkey
  7. New organic farming bill not ready until late spring
  8. Commissioner: Western Balkans in EU is 'obvious'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAA year ago UNESDA members pledged to reduce added sugars in soft drinks by 10%
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  3. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  4. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  5. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  7. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  8. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  9. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  10. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  12. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health

Latest News

  1. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  2. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK
  3. EU states stay mute on implementation of mercury bill
  4. Baltic states demand bigger EU budget
  5. Germany raises concerns over Hungary's 'Stop Soros' bills
  6. EU ties Brexit transition talks to divorce agreement
  7. EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement
  8. Facebook and Twitter weak on protecting users, says EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  2. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  5. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  7. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  8. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  9. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?
  10. European Jewish CongressEJC President Warns Europe as Holocaust Memory Fades
  11. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects