Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The European Commission used the background of the Madrid bombings to strike a claim in the area of defence research and expenditure. Their first bid was an annual budget of €1 billion, to be placed under their control, in order to enhance defence research and cooperation across the EU. This also presented an attempt to construct rival programmes to the superior research facilities in the United States.

The bureaucrats and functionaries who represented the EU Member States at the conferences discussing defence co-operation all favoured supranational decision making.

Professor Rob de Wijk of the Dutch Clingendael Centre for Strategic Studies: "We have reached the limits of international co-operation in European defence policy making. There is little more to be achieved through enhanced co-operation. To have a real leap forward the EU must introduce supranational decision-making."

First Secretary of Defence of the UK Permanent Representation to the EU, Sandy Johnston, said: "Other EU countries look to UK and France wanting to be part of for example the planned battle groups. But that is not the idea. It is for you to do more for yourself, not just to add bits and pieces" (See EurActiv 10 February, 2004) On the sensitive issue of possibly giving up national sovereignty on EU defence, he said: "The problem for the politicians is that they will have to be able to explain it so it makes sense to the readers of the Daily Mail. Otherwise they won't be re-elected."

Apart from thanking whatever deity you believe in for Daily Mail readers, it is disturbing that this "Group of Personalities" favours more centralisation. The Report from the conference held on March 15th, "Research for a Secure Europe" sets out the European Security Research Programme (ESRP) that will also, in one of those financing wheezes, contribute to the drive for competitiveness.

In line with the objective for the EU to raise spending in research from 1,9% to 3% of EU average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2010, ESRP money would add to funding from the EU Research Framework Programme, national or other intergovernmental sources. This spending level would bring the combined EU (EU, national and intergovernmental) security research investment closer to that of the U.S.

This is a dangerous development. The European Commission is using the issue of security to advance its own agenda of integration and threatens to reduce the efficiency of such research through co-ordinating the planned and unplanned initiatives. It is also clear that a body, infamous for the corruption that it fosters, is not best placed to finance and audit such programmes. The drive for competitiveness can now be judged a failure. How can an economy become more competitive when research and investment is increased through government expenditure, rather than private sector advances?

(22.50, 17th March 2004)


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