Wednesday

27th Oct 2021

EU's AI military strategy poses 'threat to Europeans'

  • The European Commission last June approved the first 16 new military technologies projects (Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel)

The arms programmes of the EU, currently driven by digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI), pose "a threat to the populations of Europe" as they fuel a military escalation of latent conflicts among major powers, according to a new report.

"On the EU level, there is serious rearmament with autonomous systems happening, and this clearly anticipates [a] global conflict," political scientist Christoph Marischka from the German Peace Movement Network, and author of the report, said on Friday (15 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

"This is not about crisis management, it is about war in a near future," he warned, adding that these new forms of arms also have the potential to generate entirely new forms of surveillance and propaganda within Europe.

The advantages offered by progress in image-recognition and machine learning can notably increase military operational capacities - ranging from optimisation of logistics to autonomous weapons systems that can identify and attack a target with no human intervention.

The study, commissioned by The Left in the European Parliament, reveals the role that AI plays in the bloc's defence strategy, described by Marischka as a hype "propagated by industry and (venture) capital to mobilise public funds for their profits".

The European Commission approved last June the first 16 projects of new military technologies, which will benefit from €205m EU financing.

These include algorithms to handle swarms of drones, airborne electronic attack capabilities, unmanned ground vehicles, high-precision missiles and cybersecurity reinforcement.

"The EU's armament policy means unmanned and autonomous systems will be used in large numbers and often in swarms on land, air, sea, space and cyber in the future," said Marischka, arguing that actively promoting these developments "will change the nature of war and people's daily lives, increasingly blurring the distinction between conflict and peace".

Ahead of the commission's legislative proposal on AI, expected in early 2021, leftwing MEPs have urged a stop to this "arms race," calling on the EU executive to regulate or even a complete ban on autonomous weapon-systems and cyberwar.

"The escalation in armament does not just mean swarms of drones and killer robots, but it threatens to undo the difference between war and peace, civilians and combatants. The risk of a gradual loss of control is real. International law will then become meaningless," warned German MEP Özlem Alev Demirel.

"What sounds like science fiction could become a reality very soon, that is why we need to be extremely critical," she added.

Meanwhile, more than 60 civil society and rights groups have called on the commission to establish "appropriate limitations on the use of AI-based technologies" to ensure that their uses are safe, legal, and do not discriminate.

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, US officials been vociferous in calling on their Nato allies to increase spending and investment on their own defence capabilities.

EIB warns of €10bn investment gap in AI and blockchain

The European Investment Bank identified an annual investment shortfall of up to €10bn in artificial intelligence and blockchain in the EU - a gap that may hinder the bloc's attempts to catch China and the United States in these sectors.

News in Brief

  1. US to add last three EU states to visa-waiver list
  2. German ministry gives thumbs up to Russian pipeline
  3. EU regulator foresees endless battles with Facebook
  4. UK fears three migrants drowned in Channel
  5. Israel joins EU science scheme, despite Palestine clause
  6. Upcoming flu season 'could be severe', EU agency warns
  7. Ukraine wins Dutch case on Crimea gold
  8. Most Poles want Warsaw to back down in EU dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Environment ministers continue dogfight on energy price hike
  2. Most lawmakers unhappy with lead MEP's asylum bill
  3. More transparency on EU media owners planned for 2022
  4. Europe's deadly border policies
  5. 'Brussels So White' needs action, not magical thinking
  6. How to break the political deadlock on migration
  7. Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action
  8. Belarus exiles in EU fear regime-linked murderers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us