Monday

15th Apr 2024

Opinion

European Defence Fund - the militarisation of EU science

  • The EU seems to be prioritising highly controversial technologies such as armed drones and autonomous weapons (Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel)

This week a coalition of peace groups and scientists launched a new initiative to call on the EU to stop the militarisation of the EU research policy.

Over 700 scientist and academics from 19 EU countries invite their colleagues to sign the online pledge and to call on the EU to stop funding military research.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The EU should fund research which helps to tackle the root causes of conflict, instead of triggering another arms race.

Earlier this month the European Commission proposed a €13bn budget for research and development of military research, the so-called European Defence Fund.

Investing EU funds in military research will not only divert resources from more peaceful areas, but is also likely to fuel arms races, undermining security in Europe or elsewhere.

It's not 'the economy, stupid'

The European Commission has repeatedly claimed that subsidies for military research are necessary for the development of the European economy.

Despite the claims by the commission, scientific research tends to point out that funding for military research has an adverse effect on growth or has no significant effect at all.

Researchers warn for the danger of 'crowding out': funding for military research risks to extract resources and skill from civilian sectors, while innovation driven by the civilian sector produces output much faster, cheaper and in a more transparent way.

While military research used to produce innovative technologies in the past, the aerospace and defence sector have lost most of its prominence. Increasingly the defence sector is dependent on innovation in the civilian sector and is innovation driven by discoveries in information technology and electronics.

This is even recognised by the arms industry itself, which constantly emphasises the need for public funding to remain profitable.

'Autonomous weapons' worries

But perhaps a European Defence Fund will make us more secure? This is highly questionable as the EU seems to be prioritising highly controversial technologies such as armed drones and autonomous weapons.

Worldwide resistance from scientists against the robotisation of warfare is growing.

Only in the last couple of months this has led to several remarkable successes. An academic boycott against the research institute KAIST in South Korea forced the institute to withdraw from the development of autonomous weapons.

Google as well was faced with widespread resistance from its employees over an AI weapons project.

Not without reason. The combination of Artificial Intelligence and war technology makes for a dangerous cocktail.

Scientists have repeatedly warned for a global arms race in autonomous weapons. And also the European Parliament has called for a ban.

Despite these warnings EU member states have rejected the exclusion of killer robots in the European Defence Funds.

Even more worrying is that several of the military projects already being rolled out under the "preparatory action on defence research" are clearly aimed at the further automatisation of military hardware.

The commission claims that the European Defence Fund is pivotal for our security. Funding highly-controversial military technology will however only contribute to instability.

Worldwide military expenditure is already at its highest level since the end of the Cold War at $1.7trn. Another arms race will not solve any of the security problems we are facing.

Concern about these developments has led peace groups and researchers to set up a new European campaign – Researchers for Peace.

We urge the European Council – which meets at the end of this week – to heed our call.

Bram Vranken is a campaigner with the Belgian peace movement Vredesactie (Peace Action)

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Defence firms 'reap benefits' of advice to EU

Six beneficiaries of a €35m defence research grant were also part of the EU expert group that called for more public money in for the military. 'This raises serious concerns about a conflict of interests,' says campaigner Bram Vranken.

Private fears of fairtrade activist for EU election campaign

I am not sleeping well, tossing and turning at night because I am obsessed about the EU election campaign, worried by geopolitical tensions, a far-right next parliament, and a backlash against the Green Deal, writes Sophie Aujean of Fairtrade International.

Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation

As Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos just reclaimed the title of the richest person on Earth, its workers cannot even take a bathroom break under the pressure of meeting inhumane performance targets.

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. EU puts Sudan war and famine-risk back in spotlight
  2. EU to blacklist Israeli settlers, after new sanctions on Hamas
  3. Private fears of fairtrade activist for EU election campaign
  4. Brussels venue ditches far-right conference after public pressure
  5. How German police pulled the plug on a Gaza conference
  6. EU special summit, MEPs prep work, social agenda This WEEK
  7. EU leaders condemn Iran, urge Israeli restraint
  8. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us