Anti-arms campaigners condemn EU defence fund

For the first time the EU is set to provide funding to military projects after previously only funding civil projects, leading anti-arms campaigners to criticise the new fund and question the role of arms companies in its development.

Anti-arms campaigners
Anti-arms campaigners

Peter Tkac

Anti-arms campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament.

Green World

Anti-arms campaigners have condemned the decision of the European Parliament to support a €13-billion budget for the European Defence Fund (EDF) 2021-2027, which will support military developments and technologies in the EU.

The idea for the fund was first put forward by European Commission President Claude Juncker in 2016 and backed by the European Council later that year.

The Commission proposed €13 billion for the fund for the period 2021-2027, of which €4.1 billion will be allocated to research actions and €8.9 billion to development actions. In addition, between 2017 and 2020, a total of €590 million has been allocated to projects in the military industry through a pilot investment fund before the EDF comes into force in 2021.

This is the first time that the EU, which has its roots in fostering peace in post-war Europe, will fund military projects, previously limiting its funding to civil projects. Campaigners have taken particular issue with the fact that the advisory group that initially developed the policy featured several arms companies.

The group was made up of 16 members, nine of which were from arms companies or private research groups. Six of the companies that have already benefited from the pilot phase of defence funding had members on the group.

Furthermore, talks between the European Parliament, Commission and Council saw the Parliament drop its opposition to the funding of controversial new weapon types, which it originally put forward in the form of an amendment saying that weapons of mass destruction, cluster munitions, anti-personnel landmines and fully autonomous weapons should not be eligible for funding, at the request of the Council.

In place of this amendment, it was agreed that projects would not be eligible if their end product was ‘prohibited by international law’.

In response to the agreement over the fund, 42 campaign groups came together to oppose it in a joint statement, hoping to raise awareness among citizens and the press about the new fund and its implications.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “This sets a very negative precedent and will see billions of pounds more of public money being used to subsidise arms companies. The European Union was envisaged as a peaceful project, it should be investing in jobs and research projects that promote sustainable industries and contribute to the prevention of conflicts. Whatever your views on Brexit and the UK’s role in Europe, it should not be using public money to fund research for companies that profit from war.”