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EU Perspectives on Remote Warfare

Foreign policy, Security and Defence
Date: Wednesday, 15 May 2019 09:00 - 17:00

Venue: Library Solvay137A Rue Belliard, Bruxelles, Bruxelles, 1000

The shape of the EU's foreign, security and defence policies are changing. With continuing instability at Europe's borders, coupled with uncertainty around the future depth of US support for NATO, many European countries are increasing allocations to defence budgets and to collective European strategic defence as a whole. In proximity to the EU’s borders, various armed and terrorist groups continue to be active, creating instability and threatening civilian lives and livelihoods. In response, various operations have been carried out in conflict theatres in the Middle East, north Africa and the Sahel, frequently under the auspices of NATO, the UN, the EU, or by single EU states. Although European military personnel have been deployed in many theatres, in recent years remote warfare has increased with, for example, unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – used in ever greater numbers and frequently to devastating effect.

Rather than an anomaly, remote warfare is increasingly the norm, particularly as European countries become ever more reluctant to deploy ‘boots on the ground’. This trend has raised concerns, with critics pointing to the limited transparency and accountability mechanisms at work in such operations. Others have questioned the military effectiveness of such tactics, or the capacity or willingness of states to ensure that targets have been struck accurately and without impacting civilian populations.

In recent years, the EU has started allocating resources to military research and development projects, with a particular focus on unmanned systems and related technologies. Under the auspices of the European Defence Fund, such R&D funding is set to substantially increase, while potential bilateral programmes between EU states have been explored. The EU has also continued to lay the groundwork for closer EU military coordination and integration, such as the pooling and sharing of resources and intelligence, while strengthening the capacity of local forces abroad. Despite concerns raised by the European Parliament, the development of these policies and technologies has taken place without significant consideration of what the legal, ethical, and military-strategic impact of these instruments might be.

The aim of this meeting is to bring together a range of experts, policymakers and civil society organisations to focus on the main issues at hand: the technology horizon of European defence investments; and European policy developments around remote warfare. A full day of discussions will be spread across four panels, covering topics such as the implications of the new EU Defence Fund; legal, ethical, and transparency issues in military research and development; and the increasingly ambitious position of the EU as a global actor. Our aim is to establish a comprehensive overview of short-term developments that will help policymakers, experts, civil society organisations and politicians in framing the EU's foreign and security policies.


09:00 Registration + Coffee

09:30 Opening

09:45 Keynote Speech

Jean Baptiste Vilmer, Director of the Institute for Strategic Research of the French Ministry for Armed Forces (IRSEM)

10:30 Panel 1 - Technological Developments & Way Forward

The first panel will host experts on military technologies and the EDF, and will provide an overview of global trends on research, development and deployment, with particular focus on the EU itself. The discussion will focus on new technologies and what the next decade may hold in terms of key developments. This panel will set the stage on emerging military technologies, EU Defence investments and provide a backdrop to prime discussions in the subsequent panels.

  • Bruno Oliveira Martins – Peace Research Institute Oslo
  • Raluca Csernatoni – Institute for European Studies
  • Jacob Parakilas - Chatham House 

11:30 Coffe Break

11:45 Panel 2 – Legal, Ethical & Transparency Implications

The second panel will explore the opportunities and challenges around the growing trend of unmanned technology investments and deployments in military operations and explore issues concerning ethics and emerging technologies, military codes of conduct, strike protocols, rules of engagement and transparency.

  • Elke Schwarz – Queen Mary University London
  • Larry Lewis – Centre for Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence
  • Elena Lazarou – European Parliament Research Services

13:00 Lunch Break

14:00 Panel 3 - State Perceptions on Remote Warfare

The third panel will focus on European states’ positions on emerging military technologies and use of remote warfare. Experts will outline their research on these topics, discussing recent developments in the policy and practice of pertinent EU member-states and NATO allies.

  • Emily Knowles – Oxford Research Group’s Remote Warfare Programme
  • Nick Wheeler & David Dunn – University of Birmingham
  • Shannon Dick – Stimson Center

15:45 Panel 4 - Eurpean Foreign Policy in Conflict Theatres

The final panel of the day will explore how various EU institutions are engaging with these issues, and what the ramifications may be in terms of foreign and defence policy trajectories, and in terms of greater transparency and accountability.

  • Beatrice Godefroy – Center for Civilians in Conflict
  • Foeke Postma – PAX
  • Ben Hayes -Transnational Institute
  • Frank Meeussen – European External Action Service

17:00 Closing

17:30 Reception + Drinks


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All Dates

  • Wednesday, 15 May 2019 09:00 - 17:00

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