After a final debate on Thursday, the EU Parliament approved the release of the financial resources for the European Defense Fund (EDF) in the second reading. The funding pot is thus accepted and has a budget of 7.95 billion euros. 2.65 billion of this is to flow into “cooperative defense research to deal with new and future security threats”. 5.3 billion are dedicated to “Defense Capability Development” projects.
Killer robots are largely exempt from promotion
Two years ago, in the first reading, the MPs wanted to release EUR 13 billion for joint armaments projects by the member states. The Council of Ministers was forced to cut, so that the compromise reached by the EU bodies ended up at around 5 billion less.
The funds are to be used by the community to invest in the combined development of technologies and equipment of strategic importance in various research fields such as electronics, metamaterials, encryption and cybersecurity or robotics. Parliament had largely excluded the particularly controversial killer robots at the last minute in 2019. According to the decision, funding will not be given to measures to develop deadly autonomous weapons “that do not allow effective human control over decisions about selection and attack” in attacks on humans.
Only with participation from EU member states
Money for early warning systems and measures against autonomous war machines for defense purposes are available. This also applies to armed drones. The EU Commission had already drawn up a work program in 2019, according to which 100 million euros can initially flow into the construction of the armed Euro drone. The unmanned flying object MALE RPAS (Medium Altitude Long Endurance / Remotely Piloted Air System) should be ready for use after the failed EuroHawk 2025.
Only cooperation projects in which at least three companies or research institutions from three different member states or affiliated countries participate are eligible for funding. The entire industrial life cycle of armaments products is supported, from research to prototype development to certification. Investments in start-ups, medium-sized companies and other smaller suppliers to the defense industry are to be strengthened. Between 4 and 8 percent of the budget is earmarked for “disruptive technologies” with the potential for groundbreaking innovations.
“Security of EU Citizens”
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton spoke in light of the Parliament’s decision of a “historic day for Europe”. The EVF is “a milestone” in a global context in which Europe “has to be stronger, more resilient and more autonomous in strategic areas”. The initiative will make a significant contribution to the security of EU citizens.
Armaments development in Europe urgently needs to be coordinated, Jana Puglierin of the German Society for Foreign Policy had demanded in advance. There are currently over 170 different weapon systems in the member states. Such national solo efforts are expensive and are of little use.
Criticism: AI war equipment, hardly any transparency, lack of control
The legal scholar Andreas Fischer-Lescano had in one Expert opinion for the left-wing parliamentary group in the EU Parliament on the other hand, given that the fund, given its basis in the Lisbon Treaty, is incompatible with EU budget law. The money is now to be spent on promoting competition or industrial policy.
The left-wing MEP Özlem Demirel spoke of a farce: The EVF serves as “start-up funding for gigantic and novel armaments projects of the EU”. It can be assumed that it will finance AI-supported military equipment such as the controversial Future Combat Air System (FCAS) or the Euro drone. The Commission is tricking here, adding “a lack of transparency and control”. In addition, around 15 billion euros were transferred separately from the EU budget to the armaments industry for military-relevant space programs. The left faction in the Bundestag announced a lawsuit against the EVF.
Greens: “Well meant”, but money better invested elsewhere
The Greens also rejected the project. More cooperation and coordination in the military would be good, said the Austrian parliamentary group member Monika Vana. The EVF is relying “exclusively on turning on the money faucet for subsidies to the armaments industry”. Instead of participating in the global arms race, “the common Europe should invest in the fight against the security risk of climate change, in the expansion of a social Europe, in development cooperation and combating the causes of displacement”.