European Defence Fund agreement sets “dangerous precedent”

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A coalition of European anti-arms trade organisations has criticised a provisional agreement between a committee of the European Parliament and the European Council, as setting “a dangerous precedent against the democratic functioning of the EU and in particular against the oversight role of the Parliament” and fuelling the global arms trade.

On 25th March, the Industry & Research Committee (ITRE) of the European Parliament adopted the provisional agreement reached with the EU Council on a European Defence Fund for 2021-2027. The agreement allows the European Commission to adopt the works programme of the fund through “implementing acts”, and so excluding the European Parliament from scrutinising the use of the fund, a decision described as “without precedent”.

The ENAAT network also criticised the ethical review: Ethical screenings will happen only before the signature of the grant contract and on the basis of prior ethical self-assessments by the industry itself; the list of independent experts to assist the EC in evaluation and monitoring tasks will not be made public, making it impossible to double-check possible conflicts of interest; and the possibility to carry out ethical checks during a project implementation or to terminate it on ethical grounds have been removed.

The European Defence Fund is an EU project designed to support investment in “cutting edge” defence research and interoperability between national armed forces. The fund was established in 2017 with €590 million made available between 2017 and 2020 (plus an additional €2 billion contributed from national contributions), primarily to defence companies and research institutions. The proposed budget for 2021-2027 is €13 billion from the EU, and a staggering €35.6 billion contributed from national budgets. This means that between 2017 and 2027, the arms industry will receive more than €51 billion in subsidies.

The final decision on the 2021-2027 budget will be made on 17th April 2019.

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