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The European Security Research Programme

Europe’s response to rising security threats


Anastasius Gavras

Political, social and technological developments have dramatically changed the security environment where risks and vulnerabilities are more diverse and less visible. New threats have emerged that ignore state borders and target European interests outside and within EU territory. In December 2003 the European Council adopted a common EU security strategy, recognising the need to further develop the capabilities to protect its citizens and contribute to a safer international environment.

The underlying proposition is that Europe must take advantage of its technological strengths to guarantee security. Although technology alone cannot guarantee security, without the support of technology, security does not seem feasible today. New technology trends offer new opportunities. Civil, security and defence applications increasingly draw on the same technological base – creating new synergies between different research sectors. The Group of Personalities (GoP – see box) recommends in its report a European Security Research Programme (ESRP), which should take advantage of the duality of technologies and the growing overlap of security functions to bridge the gap between civil and defence research. In support of a comprehensive security approach, the ESRP should fund research activities targeted at the development of systems and products that could be used, for example, to protect European critical infrastructures against transnational threats.

The GoP report points to structural deficiencies at institutional and political level which hinder Europe in the exploitation of its scientific, technological, and industrial strength. In order to overcome these deficiencies, Europe needs to increase its funding and improve the coherence of its efforts, according to the recommendations of the GoP. This implies:

  • effective coordination between national and European research activities,

  • systematic analysis of security-related capability needs, from civil security to defence,

  • full exploitation of synergies between defence, security, and civil research,

  • specific legal conditions and funding instruments for security-related research at the European level, and

  • institutional arrangements that are efficient and flexible enough to combine Member-State and Community efforts and to involve other interested partners.

In its report, the GoP lays out the cornerstones of a European Security Research Programme (ESRP) and recommends a minimum annual budget of a 1 billion with the possibility to progressively increase it further, if appropriate. The ESRP is seen as an instrument to foster cross-border cooperation, increase European industrial competitiveness, and to strengthen Europe’s research base. The recommendation has a European scope and in itself is a precondition for numerous EC policies in sectors like transport, energy, and telecommunication.

Communications are a key aspect

Although each threat may have its specificities, an effective defence against them will often require the same missions. Border control, for example, is an important mission in the fight against proliferation, organised crime, and terrorism. However, the protection of communication networks as elements of critical infrastructures is also essential in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.

The ESRP has a strong background in defence and border control missions, but recognises the importance of networks for both internal security and crisis-management operations as a key aspect. Security management is inherently distributed across different authorities and operators, with their respective roles, capabilities, and resources. In such a decentralised environment, interoperability of communication and information systems and the links between different networks are crucial. All relevant security services should be able to exchange information rapidly and securely, and this information should be made available via communication means whenever and where ever needed.

Preparatory action

Following the adoption of the EU security strategy, the European Commission launched a preparatory action on the ”Enhancement of the European industrial potential in the field of Security Research 2004-2006” for addressing key security challenges facing Europe and its partners. Under the Preparatory Action on Security Research (PASR), 175 proposals were submitted in response to the European Commission's call for proposals, which ran from 31 March to 23 June 2004.

These proposals aim to research, validate and integrate security-oriented technologies and capabilities in five areas:

  • Situation awareness

  • Protection of networked systems

  • Protection against terrorism

  • Crisis management

  • Interoperability of control and communications systems

The 2004-2006 PASR initiative has allocated € 65 million of EU funding for the three-year projects, of which € 15 million will be released in 2004. Total funding for all of the selected proposals will be approximately € 300 million, including the contributions from project participants. The successful conclusion of the projects should pave the way for a leap in EU funding for security research, according to the recommendation found in the report of the Group of Personalities in the field of Security Research, entitled ”Research for a Secure Europe”.

European Security Research Programme on the Web

The Group of Personalities

The primary mission of the Group of Personalities in the field of security research has been to propose principles and priorities of a European security research programme. This programme is aimed to be in line with the EU’s policy objectives in the areas of foreign policy, security, and defence and based on the principles of freedom, security, and justice. Co-chaired by European Commissioners Busquin and Liikanen, the Group was composed of eight chairmen and chief executives from the security industry, four serving members of the European Parliament, four heads of major research institutes, two highlevel European defence ministry officials, and two high-level political representatives from EU member states – a former prime minister and a former president. Heads of various international organizations and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Javier Solana, also participated in the work.

The group had worked for six months towards developing the cornerstones of a EU security research programme and the contribution this programme could make to address the new security challenges in a changing world. On 15 March 2004, the Group of Personalities (GOP) for Security Research issued a report of entitled ”Research for a Secure Europe”. This report calls for at least € 1 billion per year to be provided for security-related research within the EU’s Framework Research budget, starting in 2007.

Report of the Group of Personalities:

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