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Secret EU surveillance drone project revealed

EU 'secretly spent £320 million on surveillance drone development'

MPs furious as report reveals "out of control" EU is developing surveillance drones without "any kind of democratic accountability"

[Image: drone_2813285b.jpg]Neither the House of Commons nor the European Parliament has been consulted over the development of EU unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) Photo: ALAMY

[Image: Waterfield_60_1768790j.jpg]
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels

5:00AM GMT 12 Feb 2014

[Image: comments.gif]18 Comments

Over £320 million has been spent on developing European Unionsurveillance drones without proper democratic oversight and amid concerns over close links between industry and officials, a report from a civil liberties watchdog has found.

Neither the House of Commons nor the European Parliament has been consulted over the development of EU unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which are being designed to police Europe's skies on law enforcement missions.

The contribution from British taxpayers to the projects is estimated to be more than £46 million despite publicly declared opposition from David Cameron, the Prime Minister, to EU drones surveillance or air force owned or operated at the European level.

The report by Statewatch, a European civil liberties watchdog, has uncovered a secretive EURO 70 million (£58m) budget line that was inserted into new EU legislation on air traffic control for this year as "a politically driven priority" to develop drones for surveillance by European police forces, border guards and security services.

MEPs and MPs will not be consulted on the programme or the regulation clearing the development of law enforcement drones that are expected to be cruising the skies in surveillance searches for criminals or to secure public order by the end of the decade.

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"Despite the widely held civil liberties and privacy concerns about the use of drones for policing and surveillance purposes, there's not been a single jot of democratic scrutiny of the EU's activities in this area," said Ben Hayes, one of the report's authors.
"This is a recipe for irresponsible innovation and a proper debate about where the technology is headed is long overdue."
The research found that "at least a dozen" EU officials have received awards for their "personal commitment and contribution" to drones from Unmanned Vehicle Systems (UVS) International, a security industry lobbying group that represents the manufacturers of the surveillance aircraft.
Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for Harwich, chairman of the Commons public Administration select committee and a former shadow defence secretary, said the report's finding raised urgent questions of democratic accountability.
"What more proof do people need that the EU is now beyond any kind of democratic accountability? This is a bureaucracy that is out of control, and spending taxpayers' money on the industries under whose influence they operate, with no democratic oversight," he said.
"If they had a choice, this is not what UK defence or Treasury ministers want to spend our money on."
The report appears to contradict a statement by Mr Cameron, after an EU summit last December that he had "removed references to EU assets and made it clear that equipment such as drones and air-to-air refuelling tankers are to be owned and operated by the member states".
"The assurances sound all well and good, but turn out to be hollow," said Mr Jenkin.
"This underlines the need for a new relationship with our EU partners based on trade and cooperation, and the supremacy of national parliaments, not on the existing treaties and the federalisation of defence industrial policy."
Statewatch has also identified at least EURO 315 million (£261m) of EU research for "drone-based projects, many of which are subsidising Europe's largest defence and security industries and are geared towards the development and enhancement of surveillance".
"Due to the difficulties in identifying relevant projects the total EU investment to date is likely to be substantially higher," the report, "Eurodrones Inc", said.
While commission documents admit that "operational use of UAVs is a political decision", the 86-page Statewatch study, concludes that the EU "has substituted the democratic process for a technocratic one".
The watchdog is concerned that the potential use of drones for "social control" needs greater public scrutiny. A June 2013 commission "roadmap" acknowledged "societal issues" over aerial surveillance by drones but concluded in "the public area there is no privacy at all".
An official said that the commisison would be producing a policy paper on the use of civil security drones in March "that would deal with issues including privacy". "All the documents are public and have been agreed by the British government. If there is any failure of scrutiny it is not the EU's fault," she said.
A UK government spokesman said: "Decisions regarding the development of this technology is a sovereign matter, and not for EU institutions. The UK is working together with other countries, including France, on the development of certain technology aspects to reduce our own development costs. But the UK will not participate in a project to develop a European unmanned air system."

The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

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