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Arms hawks land on EU security board

Subsidies unleashed for civil surveillance

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Arms manufacturers have been put in charge of forming civil European policies as agents of an unaccountable coterie of big business interests, civil liberties campaigners Statewatch claimed in a report yesterday.

They have used their power to recommended giving themselves €1bn of subsidies, in addition to existing arms subsidies, to fund a raft of research projects for monitoring and controlling civil populations.

The European Security Research Advisory Board was set up to control EU state spending on security research, and took the "unprecedented step" of effectively giving control over EU strategy to arms corporations.

"The idea that private companies, run for profit, should be accorded an official status in the EU goes unchallenged. The result is that the arms industry is shaping not just EU security research but EU security policy," said the Statewatch report, "Arming Big Brother",

Responsibility for the formation of civil security policy and strategy have been given to the European Association of Aerospace and Defence Industries, a lobby group, and Thales, the European military giant.

With the power to control EU budgets, arms firms have already provided themselves with funding for projects including robot aircraft for "peacetime security", sort of like a black helicopter with an electronic eye instead of Ray Bans.

Other projects include James Bond-style space surveillance and technology to spook people inside buildings.

Statewatch says this is in effect a subsidy to cover the cost of arms firms branching out into civil surveillance.

EU documents describe the aim of the subsidies as helping the European defence and security industries compete with American firms that have been awash with state cash provided under President Bush's homeland security policy.

The report says €65m of EU subsidies had already been provided in breach of European conventions and to the dismay of the European Scrutiny Committee of the UK House of Commons.

Some important security measures, such as dealing with nuclear fallout and protecting the critical infrastructure (power, water and so on), had been included in the programme.

But it had no representation from the EU parliament or Commission, and no ethical or civil representatives.®

Full Statewatch report, Arming Big Brother: 48-page pdf

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