A report published by the European Parliament LIBE Committee offers a review of the FP7 Security Measures in the Horizon 2020. To what extent has the €1.4 billion European FP7 Security Research Programme been placed at the service of citizens and contributed to the development of a single area of fundamental rights and freedoms?
Have you never heard of Horizon 2020?
“If you run a business or are an academic brimming with innovative ideas you can now take advantage of the largest ever EU Research and Innovation funding programme with an available budget of €79bn. With the emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges, Horizon 2020’s goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation” (https://www.h2020uk.org/)
A massive budget, a private/public partnership, multiple research impact and the perspective of being part of a world-class scholar-system, H2020 is presented all around European Universities as the Eldorado for funding promising and cutting-edge research projects. Every single University seems to be obsessed and peering over this particular horizon. Is H2020 really the best opportunity ever for social scientists interested in security matters and their implications for social cohesion and the protection of civil rights and liberties? Possibly, but this has to be confirmed. And if one looks at what happened in the previous European Security research programme (FP7), one has grounds to be a little bit suspicious. To what extent the €1.4 billion European FP7 Security Research Programme has been placed at the service of citizens and contributed to the development of a single area of fundamental rights and freedoms as promised in the original scenario? This is a key question.
A recent report published by the European Parliament LIBE Committee and undertaken by Didier Bigo (King’s College London, United Kingdom), Julien Jeandesboz (Amsterdam University, The Netherlands), Médéric Martin-Maze (King’s College London, United Kingdom) and Francesco Ragazzi (Leiden University, The Netherlands) gives an unmistakable answer to that twofold question:
“Security Research funding has been overwhelmingly devoted to security and defence programmes of large transnational corporations, ministries of Interior and Defence and technical research institutions, with little funding for data protection, privacy and the respect of fundamental freedoms in security applications”.
The conclusions of the 2014 report are consistent with the previous reports published by the LIBE Committee and undertaken by the same researchers in 2008 in relation to FP6 and in a previous report on FP7 (see links below). This up-to-date report shows not only that organisations for applied research and transnational security and defence firms hold the most central positions in the network of research institutions sustained by FP7 Security Theme (FP7-ST), but also that both academic institutions and public security bodies play a marginal role. Furthermore, the report highlights that most of FP7-ST funding has been allocated to large member states (France, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany) and, as far as non-EU beneficiaries are concerned, Norway, Israel, Switzerland and Turkey have accounted for more than 75 % of participating institutions.
While dissecting the different topics funded under the FP-7 Security Theme, the report disturbingly shows that they tend to be mostly driven by questions of security technology efficiency and high-performance. As the report concludes, it is not only that ethical issues and protection of fundamental freedoms and rights have been marginalised, but also that they have been manipulated. When ethical and juridical issues are involved, they seem to be almost entirely focused on securing and manufacturing consent. Ethics viewed as a customer service?
“The absence of ethical reflexion on the uses of technologies of digital surveillance, in particular the impact that these technologies can have on the rule of law is particularly striking in a post-Snowden era”.
As the authors of the report stress out, it is unlikely that the H2020 programme will be different from its predecessors. The definition of who are the “end users” of these research projects is still to be clarified and the need to counter-balance the “technology-drive” in favour of “political, societal, ethical and juridical aspects of security” is more important than ever. After all, it is part of the cornerstone of the European ideal to protect and serve the EU citizenry.
The reports can be read here: