An overview of the aims and history of 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 €1.3 billion component of the Horizon Europe research and development programme, in place for the 2021-27 period. The research programme's official name is 'Civil Security for Society'. 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 research programme (e.g. space, transport, energy). The current incarnation of the ESRP follows on from the €1.7 billion security component of the seven-year EU Framework Research Programme (Horizon 2020, 2014-20), and its €1.4 billion predecessor within 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 budgets. For the 2021-27 period, these include the Internal Security Fund, the Integrated Border Management Fund and the European Defence Fund.

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 security technologies.” 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.

Projects funded under the ESRP

Israel's involvement in the ESRP

EU websites



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