Thursday

29th Jun 2017

Investigation

How the EU cosied up to the defence lobby

  • Industry stakeholders are both advising the EU and cashing in on related projects. (Photo: EUobserver)

A faceless building at Number 10 Rue Montoyer in Brussels hosts two tenants with an influential grip on the European Union security policy. Situated in the heart of “the European Quarter”, Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) shares its address with the European Organisation for Security (EOS).

Both lobby bodies represent defence and security companies that win EU-funded contracts and appear very successful in winning tenders and setting the EU's security agenda.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • An EU security research programme was set up in 2004, to respond to the American war on terror. It aimed to develop a European security industry (Photo: Stròlic Furlàn - Davide Gabino)

They are among the estimated 30,000 lobbyists who try to influence EU lawmakers in Brussels, often raising concerns about conflict of interest in the depths of EU policy making.

Things changed in the security sector when the EU set up a security research programme in 2005. The programme aimed to develop a European security industry, according to J Peter Burgess, an expert in the geopolitics of risk at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris.

Its focus shifted towards immigration and cybersecurity, on the back of an internationally bruising economic crisis, the rise of right-wing political parties, chronic unemployment, and the refugee crisis.

Part of EU’s strategy was to consult industry actors on related policies, programmes and their implementation in shaping projects for tender, so the Commission set up advisory groups.

From 2007 to 2013, the Security Advisory Group (SAG) served a programme called Security under EU's 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7). Over the seven years, FP7 had a budget of over €50 billion, of which €1.4 billion was set aside for its Security programme.

In 2014, FP7 was rebranded as Horizon 2020 (H2020) and €1.6 billion was earmarked to be spent on a programme called Secure Societies between 2014 and 2020.

Lobby fraternities

The industry has gained significant influence in shaping security policies, not the least through EOS and ASD.

Initially in 2007, five out of 20 SAG experts were working for organisations affiliated to the EOS.

In 2010, when the SAG group updated its memberships, about a third of the committee’s advisers (seven out of 22) were affiliated to an EOS member.

The security advisory group (SAG) serving the FP7 changed its name to Protection And Security Advisory Group (PASAG) under the new framework H2020.

Seven out of 30 PASAG members work with EOS-affiliated companies and even more have worked for or in partnerships with one.

Investigate Europe has carried out in-depth research into the backgrounds of consultants and the firms that win EU tenders, and revealing how industry stakeholders advise the commission, and then profit from their decisions.

The European Organisation for Security (EOS) lobby group has become a stable presence in the security advisory committees.

Out of 39 SAG consultants hired for their expertise, at least 15 had ties with companies that won FP7 security research contracts.

EOS chief Luigi Rebuffi has been both a SAG and PASAG consultant. He also works for defence and security giant Thales, another EOS-affiliated EU contracts winner.

PASAG member Cristina Leone is an employee of Finmeccanica, an Italian multinational defence and security company that has won tenders for EU-funded security research. Finmeccanica is part of the EOS family, and Leone works for ASD.

EU contractor and EOS member Airbus, one of the world’s largest defence companies, is linked to PASAG consultant Brigitte Serreault.

From the same lobby family, the Fraunhofer Institute, a German research organisation, is linked to two PASAG members. Fraunhofer won security contracts under the Secure Societies programme.

Additionally, five academic institutions that hire PASAG members receive EU funding for security research: the University of Athens, the University of Oxford, the University of Brighton, the University of Salford and the University of Birmingham.

Blurring transparency

The commission used to be transparent about its consultants’ industry affiliation. But under Horizon 2020, it blurred their employment ties.

Experts can now join EU advisory groups in a “personal capacity”, meaning “acting independently and expressing their own personal views” according to the commission.

Since May 2016, they have to sign a declaration of acceptance when they join, declaring “any conflict of interest that they could have,” to be filed by December 30, a commission spokesperson said.

“When an advisory group expert knowingly conceals a conflict of interest and this is discovered once a member, the commission will exclude the expert in question from the group,” said the spokesperson.

Other members - who may be appointed to represent an interest, a stakeholder, a company, government department or authorities from non-EU states, an NGO or an institution of some sort - are not required to file a declaration of interest.

Under present regulations, companies that employ European Commission consultants have no restrictions bidding for EU-funded projects.

All security consultants and their employers contacted have rebuffed allegations of wrongdoing.

“Members of advisory groups are chosen for their expertise and frequently have connections with organisations bidding for research,” ex-FP7 consultant Andrew Sleigh said. “This is one of the reasons advisory groups are never involved in any way in assessment, selection or procurement decisions.”

Not every PASAG consultant has filed a declaration of interest in spite of the commission’s current regulations. Anne Lambert, a British civil servant, left without submitting hers.

Lambert worked for NATS, an air traffic control services provider, until March 2014. She joined the commission’s expert group in December 2015 and resigned less than a year later.

She told Investigative Europe that she did not complete a declaration of interest because "the deadline for members of the commission’s expert groups… was after [she] had resigned from PASAG.”

"There seems to be a very incomplete understanding among some people of what a conflict of interest looks like,” EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly told Investigate Europe.

She pointed out that a conflict of interest must be declared even if not exercised, and that filling in a declaration of interest is mandatory. The ombudsman called for the commission to take action against potential conflicts of interest.

A lobby backstage

Official documents from the commission show that industry lobbyists are a vital part in shaping the European policy.

A memo obtained by Dutch news website De Correspondent through an Access to Documents request mentions a meeting in November 2015 between the EU commission’s director general for Migration and Home Affairs Matthias Ruete and three lobbyists.

Among them were Burkard Schmitt, a former EU official versed in all aspects of security and defence, now working for ASD; and Alberto de Benedictis, a former manager of the Italian arms company Finmeccanica, who served as ADS chairman until early 2016.

The meeting was to discuss a research programme called Security for Europe and its Citizens.

The memo, written for EU officials ahead of the meeting, noted that ASD “had actively taken part in discussions to shape our strategic documents”.

Under a reform of SAG, it said, “representatives from industry, or with a strong industrial background, will be more numerous than in the past”.

“We have six more names from industry on the list for 2016, 2017 or 2018 replacements. This will lead to a slight overall increase of industry representation in the SAG,” the memo reads.

Officials concluded that the Call for Proposals attracted more industry applicants in 2015 than in the previous year “because topics are more of interest to the industry”.

A 2014 assessment of security measures under the FP7 framework by the EU Parliament's citizens’ rights and constitutional affairs policy department was broadly critical of the influence of lobbyists.

“This closed community in the making, interested in the development of huge margins of profits for the industry, has successfully framed the parameters and rationale of EU-funded security research, in which the main stakeholders have increasingly played a role of gatekeepers,” the study said.

Following a complaint by anti-lobby organisation Corporate Europe Observatory, Ombudsman O'Reilly conducted her own investigation into the EU commission’s advisory bodies.

She concluded in her 2015 report that there was “the perceived imbalance in favour of corporate interests in certain groups and potential conflicts of interest of experts who participate in their personal capacity”.

In addition to Crina Boros, journalists Wojciech Ciesla, Ingeborg Eliassen, Christophe Garach, Nikolas Leontopoulos, Maria Maggiore, Paulo Pena, Harald Schumann, Elisa Simantke also contributed to this investigation for Investigate Europe.

Investigate Europe is supported by Germany's Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Rudolf-Augstein-Stiftung and Stiftung Hübner&Kennedy, the Norwegian foundation Fritt Ord and the Open Society Initiative for Europe.

EU commission presents 'realistic' lobbying rules

The EU executive called for more stringent regulation of interest representatives trying to influence EU decision making. Critics say the 'transparency revolution' is being blocked by the European Parliament and EU member states.

Juncker's EU vision to focus on security

Juncker will aim to please southern states by talk of investment, and others by talk of deeper security cooperation in his first big speech since the Brexit vote.

EU countries agree to reinforce trade defence

After two years of stalled talks, member states decided to keep the current rules on tariffs but to suspend them in case of “state-induced” distortions in raw material and energy.

Investigation

Sex and lies: Russia's EU news

France and Germany have been targeted for years with fake news and lies designed to incite sexual revulsion toward migrants and the politicians who gave them shelter.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEGet the Latest News from the 2017 Estonian EU Council Presidency @EU2017EE
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Against Critical Voices
  3. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  4. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  6. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  7. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  8. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  9. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  10. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  11. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  12. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  2. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  3. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  4. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  5. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days