Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twelfth Report

5 Security research



COM(04) 72

Commission Communication on the implementation of the Preparatory Action on the enhancement of the European industrial potential in the field of security research, towards a programme to advance European security through Research and Technology

Legal base
Document originated3 February 2004
Deposited in Parliament12 February 2004
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 26 February 2004
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentLegally and politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested


5.1 In December, we considered a paper by the Secretary-General/High Representative, Mr Javier Solana, called "A Secure Europe in a Better World".[9] It set out a proposed European Security Strategy. The Strategy was adopted by the European Council at its meeting on 12/13 December.

5.2 The Strategy identifies five key threats to the EU:

  • terrorism;
  • proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • regional conflicts;
  • State failure; and
  • organised crime.

The Strategy goes on to propose three strategic objectives for tackling the threats:

  • addressing the key issues;
  • building security in the EU's neighbouring states; and
  • an international order based on effective multilateralism.

The paper discusses ways to achieve these objectives.

5.3 Neither the European Security Strategy nor the Conclusions of the European Council of 12/13 December mentioned security research. But the Commission's Communication of March 2003, "Towards an EU Defence Equipment Policy",[10] said that:

"The setting up of the European Research Area demonstrated that the Union and the Member States would derive greater benefits from national research programmes if they were better coordinated, something which is also true of advanced security-related research … To this end … the Commission will ask national administrations, industry and research institutions with extensive activity in this area to identify in the course of this year an European agenda for advanced research relating to global security and the most appropriate ways of tackling it jointly.

"To prepare for the implementation of this advanced research agenda, the Commission intends to launch a preparatory project that it would implement with the Member States and industry to implement some specific aspects that would be particularly useful in carrying out Petersberg tasks. This preliminary operation lasting no more than three years would constitute a pilot phase for acquiring the experience for evaluating the conditions and arrangements needed for effective cooperation between national research programmes in the field of global security. It will cover just a few carefully selected subjects of advanced technology together with specific accompanying measures."[11]

5.4 Article 157(1) of the EC Treaty provides that:

"The Community and Member States shall ensure that the conditions necessary for the competitiveness of the Community's industry exist. For that purpose, in accordance with a system of open and competitive markets, their action shall be aimed at … fostering better exploitation of the industrial potential of policies of innovation, research and technological development."

In pursuit of the objectives set out in paragraph (1) of the Article, Article 157(2) requires Member States to consult each other "in liaison with the Commission" and, where necessary, to coordinate their action. The Commission is given discretion to "take any useful initiative to promote such coordination".

5.5 These provisions are in Title XVI (Industry) of the Treaty. They are distinct from the provisions of Title XVIII (Research and Technological Development), which includes provision for the EU's Framework Programme for research and technological development.

The document

5.6 The Commission's Communication says that achieving the three key objectives of the European Security Strategy will require the EU to have the most technologically advanced means of anticipating and dealing with threats to security:

"Europe needs to invest in a 'security culture' that harnesses the combined and relatively untapped strengths of the 'security' industry and the research community in order to effectively and innovatively address existing and future security challenges."

The Commission is, therefore, launching this "Preparatory Action"[12] with a view to the establishment of a comprehensive European Security Research Programme from 2007. The Commission says that the legal base for the Programme will be decided nearer the time, "taking into account the developments with respect to a future Constitutional Treaty, including the creation of an Agency in the field of defence capabilities, research, acquisition and armaments, the seventh research Framework programme and other relevant issues".

5.7 The Commission has been allocated €15 million under Article 157 of the EC Treaty for work on the Preparatory Action in 2004; it hopes to obtain approval for a further €50 million to support the work in the subsequent two years.

5.8 The Commission says that the EU has technological strengths in many areas but there are:

  • duplication and fragmentation of structures and programmes;
  • problems of interoperability and cost-efficiency of security systems;
  • "unrealised potential for the cross-fertilisation of ideas and results between the civil and non-civil security-related research fields"; and
  • under-investment in security-related research.

5.9 The Commission says that, after its consultations with Member States, industry and others, the following have been identified as priorities for research as part of the Preparatory Action:

  • "Improving situation awareness" — identifying the main threats that could affect, for example, the EU's land and sea borders, and gathering, analysing and disseminating relevant information. Projects could include the demonstration of electronic equipment to locate and track goods and people.
  • "Optimising security and protection of networked systems" — analysing networks (such as transport, communications and electronic commercial systems) to identify their vulnerability and ways to make them secure against threats. Projects could include the demonstration of equipment to detect, prevent and respond to threats.
  • "Protecting against terrorism (including bio-terrorism and incidents with biological, chemical and other substances)" — projects could include the demonstration of sensors and decontamination equipment.
  • "Enhancing crisis management (including evacuation, search and rescue operations, active agents control and remediation)" — projects could cover ways to prevent, prepare for and manage crises.
  • "Achieving interoperability and integrated systems for information and communication" — projects could include the development of standards for internationally operable communication, control and command systems.

In addition, the Commission foresees the need for up to ten "supporting activities" each year to, for example, survey good practice in screening goods and people, identify social and psychological ways to reduce risks, and study the feasibility of European security information systems.

5.10 The Commission will invite proposals for projects this month and will award the research contracts in the second half of 2004.

5.11 The Commission will make regular reports to the Council, Member States and the European Parliament on the progress of the work.

5.12 The Commission has established a "Group of Personalities" to advise on longer-term requirements for security research. The Group is chaired by two Commissioners and includes chief executives from industry and research institutes, "high level European political figures" and MEPs. The Group is to prepare a report setting out its proposals for security research in Europe, which will be the subject of a Commission Communication later this year.

The Government's view

5.13 The Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Denis MacShane) tells us that the Government welcomes, in principle, the proposal for work on security research. It also recognises the potential benefits to European industry. But the Government has some concerns about the Commission's approach.

5.14 The Minister says:

"The Government considers it important that the Commission limits its work to the area of civilian security research which falls under its competence. Research on defence-related security issues falls under the competence of Member States. Respecting this competence divide is particularly important as, in November 2003, the European Council agreed to create a capability development agency to oversee all aspects of collaborative defence capability development, including Research and Technology. We also believe it is essential that the Commission starts to liaise more closely than it has so far with Member States and the relevant bodies of the Council. In particular, it needs to focus on understanding, and reflect in its planning, existing activity and agreed priorities in the area of justice and home affairs. If there is insufficient consultation, there is a risk that work undertaken in the Preparatory Action will have no real customer."

The Minister adds that the Government has told the Commission about its concerns and called on it to ensure that it fully informs and consults Member States and the relevant Council bodies.


5.15 We have four main concerns about the Commission's Communication.

5.16 First, it contains no definition of "security research", so the scope of the work to be done under the Preparatory Action and any subsequent Security Research Programme is unclear. In places, the Communication seems to be about research directed to the achievement of the objectives of the European Security Strategy. But in other places the document seems to stem from "Towards an EU Defence Equipment Policy", from the EU Initiative for Growth and from the Community's objectives for justice and home affairs and competitiveness. We recognise that these objectives can be mutually supportive but the primary purpose of — and the justification for — the Commission's proposal for "security research" is obscure.

5.17 Second, it appears that the funding approved for the Preparatory Action in 2004 has been provided under Article 157 of the EC Treaty (Title XVI —Industry). But Article 163(3) provides that "All Community activities under this Treaty in the area of research and technological development, including demonstration projects, shall be decided on and implemented in accordance with the provisions of this Title" (that is, Title XVIII). On the face of it, therefore, the proposal for "security research" should be dealt with under Title XVIII and not under any other.

5.18 Third, because of the absence of a clear definition of "security research", it appears to us that there is the risk of muddle and confusion between the EU's priorities for justice and home affairs and the Commission's objectives for the Preparatory Action.

5.19 Fourth, we share the Minister's view that the Commission should limit its work to civilian security research; defence-related security issues are within the competence of Member States. It follows that neither the Preparatory Action nor any subsequent European Security Research Programme should include defence-related projects.

5.20 We ask the Minister to put our points to the Commission and to tell us its response both to the concerns he has already registered with it and the further concerns we have expressed. In our view, the Government should seek to prevent approval being given for the funding of the second and third year of the Preparatory Action if the Commission fails to provide satisfactory answers.

5.21 We shall keep the document under scrutiny pending the Minister's response.

9   (25085) -; see HC 42-i (2003-04), para 22 (3 December 2003). Back

10   (24451) 8484/03; see HC 63-xxiii (2002-03), para 22 (4 June 2003). Back

11   See pages 16 and 17 of "Towards an EU Defence Equipment Policy". "Petersberg tasks" include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and the tasks of combat forces in crisis- management, including peace-making. Back

12   "Preparatory Actions" are intended to prepare proposals for adoption by the EU. Back

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