€3.5bn EU arms deal raises alarms

€3.5bn EU arms deal raises alarms

The German army is looking to expand. Source: Wikimedia

The EU’s taxpayers could soon be funding billions of euros on military research under the Preparatory Action for Defence Research scheme. 

The 2017-20 project, with an estimated cost of €50-100 million, would lead to a full €3.5 billion scheme from 2021-27.

More than 60,000 people have signed a petition opposing it. Laëtitia Sédou of the European Network Against the Arms Trade said it was being forced through without proper oversight and debate. “This proposal is merely a military-industrial policy driven by economic interests of a few, a trend towards liberalisation of the arms trade and competition with the US,” she argued.

If approved, the project would be the first time the EU had provided funding exclusively for defence research.

“The EU was envisaged as a peace project and that’s what it should be,” Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade said. “Whatever your views on the UK’s role in Europe, it should not be using public money to fund research for arms companies. This proposal could mean taking funds from other projects for something that would only benefit arms companies.”

Lobbyists within the EU have argued that defence research is overdue as powers like China and Russia move ahead.

The proposal said “cooperative defence research programmes are essential for sustaining and fostering key military capabilities in Europe, and for addressing capability shortfalls”.

The European Union Institute for Security Studies, which is funded by some of the world’s biggest arms companies, said: “Europe’s ongoing economic and fiscal crisis has clearly had a negative impact on the resources available to EU member states to engage in security-related activities. At the same time, threats have become more ‘hybrid’, less conventional, and very difficult to tackle with traditional means and without international cooperation. For its part, the US strategic ‘pivot’ to Asia forces Europeans to take defence more seriously.”

Germany’s finance minister last week called for a joint EU defence budget in a speech highlighting his commitment to integration.

Arch-federalist Wolfgang Schäuble said in Berlin that the EU members “soon need a common defence budget”, which would be several times larger than Russia’s if pooled.

He has called for increased German military spending in response to growing challenges, including the perceived threat from Russia and instability in Africa and West Asia.

The German military has fallen from 585,000 in 1990 to its current 177,000, but numbers are due to increase by 7,000 by 2023. The legal limit of 185,000 troops is being relaxed so the armed forces can respond rapidly to security challenges.

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