European Defence Agency screened by EU Ombudsman after complaint Vredesactie

Good news: the European Defence Agency (EDA) has been screened by the European Ombudsman after a complaint by Vredesactie. The EDA plays a key role in supporting the arms industry and the militarisation of the EU.

A lobbyist from Airbus once said that the European Defence Agency has been modeled for 95 percent on the proposals of the arms company. Hence, it is not astonishing that the Agency plays an important role in the recent EU plans to subsidise the arms industry. The lobby report ‘Securing Profits’, published by Vredesactie in October, shows that the contacts between the EDA and the arms industry go far. In one instance the EDA called on the arms company Saab to lobby the European Parliament in favor of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR), a military research programme.

The nonviolent actions at the annual conference of the EDA also show the lack of democratic accountability of the agency. While in 2016 almost three hundred representatives of the arms industry were invited to attend the conference, critical voices were not welcome.

EDA evades democratic accountability

February 2017. The proposals of the EU to subsidise the arms industry through a military research programme take further shape. From anecdotal evidence it was already clear that the arms industry had a major influence on the policy proposals. There is however little information about exact meetings and the content of those meetings. Consequently Vredesactie requested all information regarding meetings between the arms industry and the EDA, based on the European law for access to documents (the question is online available here). The European institutions are obliged to provide a response. The EDA never responded to the request.

Consequently, Vredesactie filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman. And the European Parliament asked a critical question. With result. The European Defence Agency was screened by the European Ombudsman, up to the highest level. The CEO of the EDA Jorge Domecq and the vice-CEO Rini Goos received a visit from the Ombudsman after which Jorge Domecq expressed his regret that the request for access to documents “fell through the cracks”.

The Ombudsman report also states that “systemic issues have been uncovered during the inquiry”. The EDA does not have a system for recording correspondence exchanged via e-mail, which was a matter for each individual official. Even more striking, the IT service of the Agency had no trace of the request for access for documents from Vredesactie any more as the email had been deleted by the EDA.

The Ombudsman inquiry is not over yet. The European Ombudsman will now take further steps to solve the systemic issues uncovered.

Transparency is a condition for democratic control. The indifference of the EDA towards transparency and democratic accountability stands in stark contrast with the reception arms companies receive.