EU: "Defence" research: background to the forthcoming "preparatory action"


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On 26 February the European Parliament voted to approve the EU's general budget for 2017, and with it a "preparatory action" on defence research that is supposed to set the scene for a multi-billion euro military research budget in the 2021-27 EU budget.

The preparatory action has been designed by a 'Group of Personalities' drawn primarily from the arms industry and EU and state institutions; the group was given the opportunity to frame EU policy after being invited to do so by the Commission.

A recent briefing from the European Parliament sets out the background to the preparatory action:

"Investment in defence research has been decreasing in the EU over the last 10 years. In 2013, the Commission proposed to strengthen the EU defence and security sector and suggested launching a preparatory action (PA) on defence. Following a pilot project adopted in 2014, the preparatory action is expected to be adopted for three years with a budget of €90 million. If successful, the Commission plans to establish an EU-defence research programme for the 2021-2027 period."

See: At a glance: Preparatory action on defence research (pdf)

It should be noted that the preparatory action was preceded by a pilot project which was "seen as a way to test and assess certain governance aspects for the PA [preparatory action] and the capacity of the EDA to act as an executive agency to implement research projects in the field of CSDP," as the Parliament briefing puts it.

The PA has nevertheless been approved by the Parliament despite the fact that none of the research taking place as part of the pilot project has even begun yet. From the Parliament's briefing:

"The projects selected ('Unmanned Heterogeneous Swarm of sensor platforms', 'Inside Building Awareness and Navigation for Urban Warfare' and 'Standardisation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System Detect and Avoid') for a total budget of €1.4 million (around €450 000 per project, over 12 or 18 months), are expected to start in November 2016."

Not long after those projects start, the first call for projects as part of the preparatory actions will be issued, in mid-2017. Beforehand, some 25 million euros will go "to a large scale demonstration project regarding autonomous systems (drones)."

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