Important legal notice
   
Contact   |   Search   
RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 49 - May 2006    
Top
 HOME
 TABLE OF CONTENTS
 EDITORIAL
 ITER settles in Cadarache
 Mapping the contours of humanity
 On the trail of the human phenomenon
 Ene Ergma: the political physicist
 The enigma of the blue algae
 The virtual encyclopaedia of fish
 COMMUNICATING SCIENCE
 IN BRIEF
 PUBLICATIONS
 AGENDA
 Calls

Download pdf de en fr


EUROPEAN SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY
Title  Security: research under starter’s orders

On the long road – stretching back 15 years already – leading to the development of a genuine European security and defence policy, research and technology co-operation is making major strides. In addition to the progress achieved through increased military and diplomatic collaboration between Member States in a field that was once conceived along purely national lines, the EU’s role in supporting research is conducive to the implementation of a common policy. After three ‘pilot’ years of a preparatory action launched in 2004, security research is now set to become a fully-fledged research field for which the Commission has proposed a budget of around €1 billion over the seven years of the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013).  

On 7 July 2005, in London, three explosions ripped through the Underground. © De Malglaice-Lafargue/Gamma-Photo News

On 7 July 2005, in London, three explosions ripped through the Undergroundbetween 8.50 and 8.51. At 9.47, a double-decker bus exploded in Tavistock Square. The final toll was 56 dead and 700 injured.
© De Malglaice-Lafargue/Gamma-Photo News
The second half of the 20th century was dominated by a world of Cold War insecurity which was, nevertheless, highly institutionalised and based on a balance of nuclear ‘deterrence’. All that changed with the fall of the Berlin Wall and, just two decades later, we find ourselves living in a very different age, one that is multipolar and increasingly interdependent. Against the background of economic and technological globalisation, the geopolitical stakes have changed dramatically. The league of world powers is now much more diverse. While centres of stability, such as the enlarged Europe, have strengthened, tensions have increased in many other parts of the world.

Their causes are many and cumulative. Often embracing ethnic, religious or cultural divisions, they are fuelled by territorial conflicts, competition for access to resources, such as energy or water, the confiscation of power by minorities and, in certain countries, the disintegration of state structures leaving populations exposed to corruption and organised crime. At the same time, demographic pressure, socio-economic inequalities and poverty are growing and triggering uncontrollable economic migration. 

In the face of the resulting crises within and between states, traditional military concepts of defence and security have ceased to apply. As the war in the former Yugoslavia demonstrated, the mission of armies in a democratic Europe must be to resolve conflicts and not to participate in them. At the same time, these armies must be operational in the face of evolving global threats and risks. The proliferation of ‘local’ weapons of mass destruction – not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or radiological – has replaced ‘star wars’ as the disaster scenario. Military confrontations are increasingly taking the form of a fight against a cosmopolitan terrorism that is fuelled by fundamentalism, able to strike randomly at civilians anywhere on the planet and, today, an undeniable factor in international instability. 

Quick of the mark
For all these reasons, the issue of European defence and security has become a much more pressing concern in these opening years of the new century. Against the backdrop of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and international terrorism, the invasion of Afghanistan, the war in Iraq and the frustrated search for peace in the Middle East – not to mention the growing regional or internal crises, in Africa, in particular – the EU adopted a policy document entitled A Secure Europe in a Better World in December 2003. This provides a firm statement of Europe’s desire to play its role on the world stage as part of an approach that embraces “effective multilateralism” as well as “preventive engagement” in avoiding international or local crises. 

Quick off the mark, the European Commission sought to give substance to this new priority in its implementation of one of the principal areas of policy of importance to security: technological research and development. The impetus was immediately given by the clear and coherent guidelines submitted by a Group of Personalities (GOP) working under the direct leadership of former Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and Enterprise and former Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen. 

A preparatory experience
Tests carried out by the INERIS, a partner in the ‘L-surF’ © InerisTests carried out by the INERIS, a partner in the ‘L-surF’ © Ineris

Tests carried out by the INERIS, a partner in the ‘L-surF’ © InerisTests carried out by the INERIS, a partner in the ‘L-surF’ © Ineris
Tests carried out by the INERIS (Institut national de l'environnement industriel et des risques – FR), a partner in the ‘L-surF’ (Large Scale Underground Research Facility on Safety and Security) project.

a) inflammation tests on organic peroxide
b) test on tanks containing dangerous substances;
c) non-transmission test;
d) measuring the protection index on a switch cupboard.
© Ineris

The aim – and now confirmed intent – is to devote a specific component of the Seventh Framework Programme to security research. To pave the way, the Commission launched a Preparatory Action with a budget of €65 million over the next two years in 2004. In 2004 and 2005, this supported 25 research projects and a third selection is to be finalised this year. This experience is making it possible to develop a scientific and technological strategy that matches the most urgent and best targeted needs of European co-operation.

The priorities adopted in this Preparatory Action relate to research that is designed to offer Europe and its citizens increased and concerted civil protection and this does not include, under any circumstances, the development of specifically military technologies. This latter field is the responsibility of the European Defence Agency, a joint intergovernmental body set up in 2004 in the context of efforts to develop a European defence and security policy. 

Having confirmed this separation of competences, one must also acknowledge that present technologies are converging and that their uses are increasingly multifunctional. ‘Arpanet’, the predecessor of the internet, was created to link the computers of the Pentagon in the United States. Earth satellite observation and the global positioning system (GPS) serve military needs, as well as managing environmental problems and commercial or private transport. In its report, the GOP says that there is now a continuum and that “across this continuum applications in one area can often be transformed into applications in another area.” 

Network vulnerability
One sensitive field of security identified for the launch of this European research is the protection of interconnected networks and systems. As the GOP stresses, “the paradox of technology is that it is both part of the problem and part of the solution”. While it is most certainly vital for greater security, the very fact that it is increasingly linked so inextricably to the functioning of society makes it a source of new vulnerability, thereby generating new risks and targets for potential attacks.

The example of the growing interconnection of information and communication networks that are subjected constantly to new forms of cybercrime is clearly one of the most sensitive fields on which the Preparatory Action projects are focusing attention. But many other vital infrastructures, such as energy production and distribution systems – which one project is studying – imply the development of research rooted in a genuine culture of vigilance in the face of such threats. 

Combatting terrorist threats
Other projects are working on effective ways of combatting terrorism, in particular the protection of transport networks (underground and surface rail networks, airports and ports). A number of projects are also looking at technological progress in the surveillance of crowded public places and at new ways of detecting weapons, explosives and threats classed as CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear). 

In addition to public, academic and industrial research bodies working on targeted technological innovations, most of the consortiums participating in the projects also include ‘users’ – that is, transport authorities and public or private civil protection services, etc. Responsible for actually implementing new security systems, they can provide researchers with specific data on practical operating constraints. 

Crisis management
These players are also important partners in a third strand of security research that is concerned with enhancing crisis management capability. In the event of attacks such as those that occurred in Madrid in 2004 or in London in 2005 – and also other incidences, such as a CBRN attack – the organisation of the emergency response is of vital importance in saving lives and limiting damage. It should be noted that this crisis management dimension is also relevant to natural or industrial disasters. 

Finally, in a Union of 25 Member States, any danger can extend at any moment to include several countries. One of the new fields being looked into by the Preparatory Action is, therefore, the crucial issue of the interoperability of national security systems. This applies to crisis situations as well as being a permanent element in monitoring the 6 000 km of external land borders and the 85 000 km of coastline that surround the Union. 

Security at the heart of the Seventh Framework Programme
The inclusion of a major security research component is one of the notable innovations of the forthcoming Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013). As the three-party negotiations between the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and European Parliament are still in progress, it is too soon to determine the precise amounts that will be made available. For its part, the Commission proposed in 2005 a joint Security and Space budget of almost €4 billion, about a quarter of which could be allocated to this new field. This figure gives an indication of a level that is likely to be in excess of €100 million a year on average – and that is certainly a solid start.  

On the basis of the priorities identified by the Preparatory Action, four lines of research are likely to be pursued: protection against the threat of terrorism and organised crime, security of infrastructures and collective services, border control and surveillance, crisis management and restoration of security. The programme activities will also take into account aspects relating to private life and the freedom to coordinate with other European structures in the security field, in particular the European Defence Agency. 

For the purposes of the preparation and future management of the programme, the Commission has the support of a 50-member consultative structure – the European Security Research Advisory Board (ESRAB) – that is representative of a wide range of European stakeholders (defence and security authorities of the Member States, industry, research, etc.).


Printable version

  READ MORE  
  High-tech expertise at Ispra

The supplier of integrated scientific and technical services to the Union to support the implementation of policy is the Joint Research Centre. It has an Institute for the Security and Protection of the Citizen (ISPC), located at its Ispra site (IT). The institute is known for its leading multidisciplinary ...
 
  Beware of Big Brother

Shocked by the horror and brutality of the 2004 Madrid attacks and the 2005 London attacks, the weight of public opinion is overwhelmingly behind any means of increasing civil security in Europe. But this legitimate development of a security policy involves the use of increasingly sophisticated and ...
 
  Web 2.0 under threat

In internet jargon, ‘Web 2.0’ refers to the change represented by the generalised increase in the flexibility and interactivity of the World Wide Web. At first, the Internet was primarily a vast ‘library’ in which documents and pictures were placed. Today, it has become a global ...
 
  Underground Security

Underground sites – whether road or rail tunnels, or urban facilities constructed beneath our towns and cities – are of the utmost importance where safety and security are concerned, bringing with them specific constraints. They are particularly vulnerable to both accidents and terrorist ...
 
  Bats in airports

The technology is a spin-off from the ESA space programmes. For several years now, the Irish company Farran Technology has specialised in the design of components operating in the millimetre wave range (30-300 GHz) developed for astronomical devices and broadband systems for inter-satellite communication. ...
 

  TO FIND OUT MORE  
 
  • Commission Communication on the Preparatory Action
  •  


       
      Top
      High-tech expertise at Ispra

    The supplier of integrated scientific and technical services to the Union to support the implementation of policy is the Joint Research Centre. It has an Institute for the Security and Protection of the Citizen (ISPC), located at its Ispra site (IT). The institute is known for its leading multidisciplinary excellence in fields, such as the analysis of space images, information and communication technologies, nuclear technology and many aspects of technological engineering (detection by sensors, radar, tracking systems, etc.). 

    The ISPC is, therefore, an important scientific centre in strengthening research in areas directly concerned by threats to civil security in Europe.(1) Its activities cover, in particular, the fight against cybercrime, CBNR-type terrorist threats and the illegal trade in nuclear weapons, as well as border surveillance. The Institute also possesses expertise in the field of crisis management. In all these capacities, it is involved in the four Preparatory Action projects launched in 2004-2005. 

    (1) Other ISPC missions concern prevention of and protection against natural and industrial disasters, aviation security, the combaTting of fraud, etc.

      Beware of Big Brother

    Shocked by the horror and brutality of the 2004 Madrid attacks and the 2005 London attacks, the weight of public opinion is overwhelmingly behind any means of increasing civil security in Europe. But this legitimate development of a security policy involves the use of increasingly sophisticated and interconnected surveillance technologies that can also raise very serious issues regarding respect for private life and individual liberties. This concern is taken very seriously and is laid down in the European approach to security research. As the GOP report stresses, “the Union must protect its citizens and defend, at the same time, its commitment to a pluralist, open and liberal society. Striking the right balance between security and freedom while respecting the highest ethical principles will be a permanent challenge.” 

    An evaluation and recommendation project under the Preparatory Action is looking at this issue. “In bringing together technology developers, public and private security managers, policy-makers and institutions and organisations involved in the protection of private life and liberties, our approach seeks to be pragmatic by formulating methodological correct guidelines and criteria,” stresses Project Coordinator Johann Čas, of the Institute of Technological Assessment at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. “These assessment tools must provide a chart of analysis applicable to existing or developing security technologies. There are cases in which a technological innovation leading to increased surveillance brings no increase in security and others where the potential security gains are not justified by the serious risks of curtailing individual rights.”   

    This brings us to a democratic debate in which the arbiter is also the public. Thus, the methodological results of this project will be tested in the final instance in the form of scenarios for a technological tightening of security that will be subject to “participative consensus assessments” in various European countries. 

      Web 2.0 under threat

    In internet jargon, ‘Web 2.0’ refers to the change represented by the generalised increase in the flexibility and interactivity of the World Wide Web. At first, the Internet was primarily a vast ‘library’ in which documents and pictures were placed. Today, it has become a global and multimedia platform for information and knowledge exchange, search and construction. From discussion forums to blogs, from Google to the Wikipedia encyclopaedia, and from e-culture to e-business, a communication architecture of incredible complexity is developing at such a speed that it has become increasingly vulnerable to ever-changing malicious attacks.

    Security on the Internet is a major concern and there are already clear signs of growing suspicions among US users. “The survey Leap of faith using the internet despite the danger, carried out by the Consumer Reports Webwatch, shows that, in one way or another, 86% of internet users have changed their behaviour on-line for fear of ‘identity theft’,” explains Boaz Glebord, an expert with the European Network and Information Agency (ENISA). “Just over one half refuse to communicate information about themselves and a quarter have stopped making on-line purchases.”

    The ENISA is an EU agency charged with assisting the Commission, Member States and public, economic and private players in making available a maximum of expertise in protection and surveillance in the face of increasingly sophisticated Web attacks. A veritable ‘watchdog’ for new threats and risks that are continuously developing in an ever-expanding internet universe, ENISA implements, within the Union, an active and targeted information, co-operation and training network to create a genuine ‘culture of vigilance’ among computer professionals and users. 

    • To find out more
      (The agency publishes the ENISA Quarterly, a journal aimed at security actors on the Web).
      Underground Security

    Underground sites – whether road or rail tunnels, or urban facilities constructed beneath our towns and cities – are of the utmost importance where safety and security are concerned, bringing with them specific constraints. They are particularly vulnerable to both accidents and terrorist attacks.

    A number of national and regional institutes in Europe possess innovative expertise in improving underground security, but their efforts, unfortunately, remain fragmented. Hence the initiative by seven of these bodies to develop a vast European centre, known as ‘L-surF’ (Large Scale Underground Research Facility on Safety and Security). This research and technological development infrastructure, designed to permit the simulation of configurations of underground spaces, aims to permit the carrying out of tests on the effectiveness of security equipment – sensors, materials, aeration, etc. – under operating conditions. L-surF also aims to become a centre for the education and training of specialists from throughout Europe. 

    (1) The partners are VHS (Switzerland), SP (Sweden), STUVA (Germany), TNO (The Netherlands), SINTEF NBL (Norway) and INERIS (France).

      Bats in airports

    The technology is a spin-off from the ESA space programmes. For several years now, the Irish company Farran Technology has specialised in the design of components operating in the millimetre wave range (30-300 GHz) developed for astronomical devices and broadband systems for inter-satellite communication. This know-how subsequently permitted the development, in a totally different field, of a new millimetre wave portal detection system for use in airports, known as Tadar. The name comes from ‘Tadarida’ which is a species of bat found in Brazil. Like the bat, the device works on the basis of the emission of millimetre waves, the reflected signals of which make it possible to ‘see’, among other things, through clothing to detect the presence of any object of a certain density. Compared with traditional detectors that detect metal only, this device is able to distinguish between wave reflections associated with body temperature and those that correspond to non-visible objects carried by the inspected person, including non-metal or liquid materials. 

    TO FIND OUT MORE

    CONTACTS