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Observatory on the European security-industrial complex

What is the European security-industrial complex?

The European security-industrial complex is a term used to describe the confluence of interests within the European Union between the 'homeland security' industry and politicians and state officials dealing with security policies.

At EU level, this complex is most apparent in the European Security Research Programme (ESRP), currently a €1.7 billion component of the seven-year EU Framework Research Programme (Horizon 2020, 2014-20). The research programme's official name is 'Secure societies - Protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens'. The ESRP has the twin objectives of enhancing public safety through the development of security technologies and fostering the growth of a globally competitive European 'homeland security' market. Security-related research also takes place in other themes of the €77 billion Horizon 2020 programme (e.g. space, transport, energy, etc.). The current incarnation of the ESRP follows on from the €1.4 billion security component of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7, 2007-13). 

The security research budgets are intended to provide tools and technologies that will complement EU and national internal security policies, which have their own EU budgets. For the 2014-20 period, the most relevant funding programmes are the Internal Security Fund - Police (ISF-Police) and the Internal Security Fund - Borders & Visa (ISF-Borders), worth a total of some €3.8 billion. Relevant funding may also come from other sources, such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) as well as the funds for EU agencies such as Europol and Frontex. In the 2007-13 period the equivalent funds - ISEC (law enforcement), CIPS (critical infrastructure) and the External Borders Fund (EBF) - were far smaller, coming to just over €2.5 billion. The majority (€1.8 billion) was dedicated to the External Borders Fund.

In 2012 the European Commission also initiated a 'Security Industrial Policy', launching a number of actions that were supposed to help develop a harmonised European market for security products and technologies.

Early research by Statewatch and the Transnational Institute (Arming Big Brother and NeoConOpticon) showed how the design of the ESRP was largely outsourced to the major players in the nascent European Homeland Security industry, instituting an apparent conflict of interests within which large multinationals and major research institutes have been able to shape the security research agenda, apply for the subsequent R&D funds on offer, and then attempt to sell the resulting technologies and systems back to the governments that funded their development. Subsequent research (Market Forces) has confirmed these findings. See: Market Forces (2017), NeoConOpticon (2009) and Arming Big Brother (2006).

According to a 2014 report commissioned by the European Parliament, the EU's dedication to supporting the security industry and developing technologies of surveillance “overrules all other societal considerations, which are relegated to preoccupations with societal acceptance of securitytechnologies.” A 2010 edition of the same report concluded that "it is mostly large defence companies, the very same who have participated in the definition of EU-sponsored security research which are the main beneficiaries of [ESRP] funds".

The EU has also recommended that Member States establish dedicated national security research programmes and at least seven have done so.

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Critical analysis - Statewatch/Transnational Institute

Other critical research

Statewatch news stories

EU security policy framework

High-level reports and policy papers

Legal basis and official evaluations

Studies contracted by the European Commission

Projects funded under the ESRP

Israel's involvement in the ESRP

EU websites


NeoConOpticon blog (2009-2012)

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