Arming Big Brother: the EU's Security Research Programme

(Ben Hayes - TNI Briefing Series 1, April 2006)

This Statewatch-TNI report examines the development of the security-industrial complex in Europe and in particular the development of the EU Security Research Programme (ESRP). Spawned by the military-industrial complex, the security-industrial complex has developed as the traditional boundaries between external security (military) and internal security (security services) and law enforcement (policing) have eroded. With the global market for technologies of repression more lucrative than ever in the wake of 11 September 2001, it is on a healthy expansion course.

The story of the EU Security Research Programme is one of “Big Brother” meets market fundamentalism. It was personified by the establishment in 2003 of a “Group of Personalities” (GoP) comprised of EU officials and Europe’s biggest arms and IT companies. The GoP’s concern was a simple one: European multinationals are losing out to their US competitors because the US government is providing them with a billion dollars a year for security research – it recommended the EU match this level of funding to ensure a “level playing field”. The European Commission has obliged with a “preparatory” budget for security research 2004-6, with the full ESRP to begin in 2007, and appointed an EU Security Research Advisory Board to oversee the programme. This makes permanent the GoP and gives profit-making corporations an official status in the EU, shaping not just security research but security policy.

Myriad local and global surveillance systems; the introduction of biometric identifiers; RFID, electronic tagging and satellite monitoring; “less-lethal weapons”; paramilitary equipment for public order and crisis management; and the militarization of border controls – technological advances in law enforcement are often welcomed uncritically but rarely are these technologies neutral, in either application or effect. Military organisations dominate research and development in these areas under the banner of “dual-use” technology, avoiding both the constraints and controversies of the arms trade. Tomorrow’s technologies of control quickly become today’s political imperative; contentious policies appear increasingly irresistible. There are strong arguments for regulating, limiting and resisting the development of the security-industrial complex but as yet there has been precious little debate.

[Full report]