New challenges beget new security needs

April 30, 2004

Brussels, 29 Apr 2004

Amid fears of terror attacks and the shifting demographical and political sands across Europe, EU policy-makers are keen to raise the profile of research on security challenges. The Commission is calling for research projects and ideas to help European industry prepare for the worst.

The Commission gave the green light, on 3 February, to a 'Preparatory Action' for research aimed at boosting European industry's ability to handle potential security threats. It followed this announcement with a call for proposals on security research two months later, setting aside a significant sum for several projects in this vital area.

In its February Communication, the EU's executive branch points out that security issues present many challenges to the enlarged Union of 25 nations. "Europe has entered a new phase in history, marked by major political, demographic[al], social and economic evolutions," it said. "The challenge facing the EU-25 is to adapt and prosper within this changing environment, while being guided by the fundamental values and objectives of the Union."

The call – the first of the Preparatory Action on the enhancement of the European industrial potential in the field of security research – will allocate €13 million to as many as eight industrial research projects lasting between one and two years, and for 'supporting activities' operating between six months and three years. The deadline for submitting proposals to the Commission is 23 June 2004.

What to look out for

The EU is looking for well-defined collaborative projects which apply a strategic approach in reaching tangible outcomes that address European challenges and threats, and that will, ultimately, inform the Union's future Security Research Programme. What it aims to establish is a "security culture" which, in its words, "harnesses the combined and relatively untapped strengths of the 'security' industry and the research community".

This philosophy comes out of the European Security Strategy – 'A secure Europe in a better world' – which was presented to the Thessaloniki European Council in December last year. This paper puts forward thee strategic objectives: that the Union must address the threats, build security in the region, and create international order based on effective multilateralism.

Research activities emanating from the call must be consistent with EU policies and values, especially respecting citizens' privacy. Broadly speaking, they should help European industry gain a competitive advantage in the security sector, show an ability to carry out the projects successfully on the basis of clear and effective partnerships, and make arrangements for any resulting intellectual property rights and for treating classified information.

Within this, the 'priority mission' is to improve security awareness, optimise security systems and networks, protect against terrorism (including bio-terror and chemical substances), to enhance crisis management and to work towards inter-operable systems for communication.

In addition, the EU's Joint Research Centre is hosting a two-day workshop, in June, at its Ispra (IT) site to explore the role of 'sensors for security', especially in the food chain and for detecting explosive materials.

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