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19th Jan 2020

EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech

  • The EU is set for a €13bn European Defence Fund in 2021. (Photo: NATO)

The European Commission on Tuesday (19 March) announced hundreds of millions of EU funds for joint defence industrial projects - but promised that anything prohibited by international law would not be funded.

"Before this commission, the EU budget devoted to defence cooperation was zero," European commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen told reporters in Brussels.

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His statement follows announcements of €525m of EU money earmarked for a whole range of military defence projects covering things like "counter-drone systems", "space situational awareness", "ground-based precision strike capabilities", "cyber technologies", and others.

The bulk of the money will go towards some 21 projects.

Around €25m will go into researching "future disruptive defence technologies".

Another €100m will go to support the development of medium altitude long endurance remotely piloted aircraft system, also known as Eurodrone.

The commission stressed that anything prohibited by international law won't be funded.

Elzbieta Bienkowska, European commissioner for the internal market, stressed that anything prohibited by international law won't be funded. She told reporters: "The fund will not cover actions relating to technologies that are prohibited by international law."

The whole is part of a much bigger plan to create a future €13bn European Defence Fund.

The commission sees the venture as a means to make Europe's defence industry more competitive, while at the same time cutting military and defence duplication across the member states.

It also claims that the nature of security in terms of counter terrorism and cyber attacks has made it necessary to boost military cooperation across EU states.

"All this was unthinkable just a couple of years ago," said Katainen.

Mindset change and UK support

Commissioner Bienkowska said the joint defence industrial projects are "European priorities" and do not belong to any single member state.

Security and defence are national prerogatives of member states.

But Bienkowska said a mindset has since emerged to cooperate at both industry and state level.

"What we see is a complete change of mind set in the defence ministries," she said.

She also noted that the UK had been "especially supportive after the referendum" of the European Defence Fund.

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