In mid-November, as European Union leaders made plans for the next EU budgetary cycle, 42 European non-profits and NGOs issued a letter criticising the bloc's plans for a European Defence Fund. The next budgetary cycle runs from 2021 to 2027, and included in the draft budget is €13 billion to pay for research and development of new weapons and military technology.
In the letter, the organisations highlighted that using money to develop military technology will inevitably take money away from civilian projects, especially considering that EU member states will be unwilling to increase their contributions. Cuts are already planned in some areas of the EU budget, such as agricultural funds and some external aid programmes.
The letter also raises concerns about the risks of prioritising arms industry interests and undermining EU transparency rules, highlighting issues like the "group of personalities", an advisory group on which over half the participants are representatives of military industries. The letter argues that "Many recommendations of this GoP turned into concrete provisions which make the Defence Fund look more like a subsidy to the industry than a policy-driven tool."
Another criticism of the EU plans for a European Defence Fund is the lack of safe guards about the sort of technology that it will fund, with particular concerns raised about "killer robots" and other autonomous weapons. In the 2019-2020 pilot phase of the Defence Fund, Member States refused to exclude funding for the development of fully autonomous weapons. The draft Regulation for the 2021-2027 budget cycle specifically focuses on “disruptive technologies” and weapons or technologies which “can radically change the concepts and conduct of” war, such as artificial intelligence.
The full text of the letter can be found on the ENAAT website here.