at what cost?

Funding the EU’s security, defence, and border policies, 2021–2027

A guide for civil society on how EU budgets work

2021–2027 Budget

(In billions of Euros)

2021–2027 Budget

(In billions of Euros)

Commonly asked questions about EU security budgets

There are six budgets relevant to EU security and defence spending for the 2021–2027 budgetary cycle and through them, funding is made available to EU member states and to the European Commission.

There are three EU home affairs funds:

  1. the Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF),
  2. the Internal Security Fund (ISF),
  3. the Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF), which is divided into two parts, called ‘instruments’:

There is the European security research programme:

  1. Civil Security for Society

There are two military budgets:

  1. the European Defence Fund (EDF)
  2. the European Peace Facility (EPF)

There is also independent funding for decentralised EU agencies active in Migration and Border Management and Security and Defence. These agencies can also profit from additional funding through the above-mentioned budgets.

In the 2021–2027 budget, EU military and security spending is set to increase by 123% to a total of €43.9bn compared to €19.7bn from 2014–2020. This massive increase in security spending over the next seven years – to the tune of tens of billions of euros – is set to further reinforce ‘Fortress Europe’, bolster the technologies and powers available to police forces, and provide enormous sums for the development of new military equipment and the deployment of military operations overseas.

Here is a snap shot of how the various budgets have increased:

The Internal Security Fund will tackle “terrorism and radicalisation, serious and organised crime and… assisting and protecting victims of crime.” What this means in practice is using the vast majority of this budget to implement and develop EU law and policy on crime control, and continue with the construction of a pan-EU law enforcement machinery. Learn more.

The Integrated Border Management Fund – Border and Visa will ensure “strong and effective European integrated border management at the external borders while safeguarding the free movement of persons within it”. Much of the budget will be spent acquiring new border control technologies, training border security forces and intelligence gathering. It is noteworthy that there is no direct reference to fundamental rights, while the emphasis on externalisation appears intended to push the issue of states’ responsibilities to uphold human rights further out of sight and out of mind. Learn more.

The Asylum and Migration Fund aims to “contribute to an efficient management of migration flows in line with the relevant Union acquis and in compliance with the Union’s commitments on fundamental rights.” In practice, this includes managing internal asylum procedures, paying third countries to detain migrants so that they cannot reach the EU, or funding deportations. Despite three of the objectives of the AMF aiming explicitly to enhance the “external dimension” of asylum and migration management, there are no specific human rights safeguards for third countries included in the text. Learn more.

The security research programme Civil Security for Society aims “to strengthen the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing Union policies, and support the uptake of innovative solutions in industry and society to address global challenges”. This means funding research related to disaster preparedness and response (ranging from terrorist attacks to industrial disasters, floods and forest fires); “protection and security” (encompassing crime, radicalisation, terrorism and border control); and cybersecurity. In the past, private companies, among them arms companies, have been the main beneficiaries of these kind of research programmes. The European Border Coast Guard Agency – Frontex, has significant influence on what is being researched. Learn more.

The European Defence Fund aims “to foster the competitiveness, efficiency and innovation capacity of the European defence industry.” The main beneficiaries are arms companies, many of which are accused of corruption or involved in highly controversial arms exports to countries experiencing armed conflict or where authoritarian regimes are in place and human rights violations are commonplace. The approval of the European Defence Fund has paved the way for the unprecedented militarisation of the EU, setting it firmly on a course that emphasises the need for ‘hard power’ and further intertwines its interests with those of the arms industry.

The European Peace Facility aims “to preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security”. It is a new budget designed to finance military operations carried out by the EU or its allies, or to provide equipment, training or other assistance to those allies. The use of the word “peace” in the name of the fund can only be described as Orwellian, given that this is a budget designed to increase the EU’s ability to launch or assist various types of military operation, and, for the first time in the EU’s history, directly buy weapons for third countries. The EPF is an off-budget fund over which the European Parliament has no control.

The funds will significantly strengthen the internal and external security machinery of the EU and its member states, reinforcing both their repressive and aggressive powers. Police databases and information networks; intrusive counter-radicalisation policies; border surveillance technologies; detention centres; migration “hotspots” such as those already-established in Greece and Italy; weapons research; the development of security and military technologies; and an increased number of military operations will all receive increased financial backing through these budgets.

These goals are being cynically pursued with comparatively little additional funding for human rights organisations and activism: Funding for law enforcement, border control and military research and development, and operations (€43.9bn) is 31 times higher than funding for “rights, values and justice” (€1.4bn). Furthermore, the majority of the funds for rights, values and justice will still be awarded to states rather than independent organisations.

This funding is not simply an addition to national budgets, but is designed to contribute to building the EU as a political project. Thus, to understand the nature of this political project it is important to examine where the money is meant to go, what it is supposed to do, and what are the procedures and possibilities for ensuring accountability, respect for fundamental rights and transparency.

We identified a number of problematic trends:

With regard to migration, the budgets – alongside some of the EU’s more recent policy proposals – are clearly geared towards trying to placate xenophobic and racist movements and sentiments in some member states rather than finding creative ways to effectively challenge them. A long-standing goal of the EU and its member states is the externalization of border controls, in order to prevent the arrival of unwanted people – many of them seeking protection from war and persecution, or fleeing poverty and lack of opportunity. The home affairs funds have also played a role in this process, and the aims, objectives and requirements of the budgets for the 2021–27 period make clear that this is set to continue. Read more.

Decentralised agencies are being strengthened with both more money and extended powers, in particular the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex. Frontex has been accused of being involved in illegal pushbacks that led to the death of thousands of people at the EU’s external borders. Read more.

A significant quantity of the security funds being provided by the EU until 2027 will help to bolster the continent’s security-industrial complex. This complex – the confluence of interests between the private ‘homeland security’ industry, and politicians and state officials dealing with security policies – has long-promoted a vision of security based on the development and deployment of technological ‘solutions’, many of which are in turn premised on novel and enhanced surveillance techniques. Read more.

Most of the EU’s new security funds will be subject to some measure of democratic scrutiny and oversight, but in the case of the European Defence Fund (EDF) and the European Peace Facility (EPF) this is practically non-existent. This is significant because for the first time the EU has these kinds of militarised budgets and right from the outset it has specifically established procedures that circumvent the already limited transparency and oversight procedures in place.

There will be some transparency over the other projects and activities that are funded. However, this is largely restricted to the provision of information on spending and results, while democratic participation in setting priorities is strictly limited. For the most part, it will be the preserve of state officials to determine how the funds are spent – elected representatives and civil society organisations are only granted a post-facto oversight role, until the start of negotiations on the next round of budgets. Read more.

There is no funding to undertake search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, but rather to provide assistance or actively participate in ‘push or pull back’ operations to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from reaching Europe’s shores.

There are only limited requirements to consult the EU’s own expert body on fundamental rights, the Fundamental Rights Agency, when drafting and approving spending programmes, while there is no obligation whatsoever to consult the European Institute for Gender Equality or national human rights bodies.

These funds attempt to address the consequences, and not root causes, of political and social conflict. For example, with regard to racism and xenophobia towards migrants and refugees, they appear to placate such sentiments rather than to find creative ways to effectively challenge them.

Read more about the different security funds and their impacts on this website or download the whole report as a PDF document. For an overview of the most important findings, read the executive summary.

Read TNI’s report Fanning the Flames about how the European Union is fuelling a new arms race.

Read Statewatch’s analysis of Frontex and eu-LISA spending.

Read TNI’s report Smoking Guns about how European arms exports are forcing millions from their homes.

Read Statewatch’s analysis Border surveillance, drones and militarisation of the Mediterranean.

Read TNI’s report Outsourcing Oppression about how Europe externalises migrant detention beyond its shores.

Read Statewatch’s analysis of migrant ‘hotspots’ in Greece.

Open Security Data Europe is a public platform aimed at tracking and displaying how the European Union spends money on security-related projects, including on topics related to policing, border control, counter-terrorism and cybersecurity. The platform is a tool for journalists, researchers, civil society organizations and others to better understand the growing investments of the European Union in security.

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section 1

Key Findings

section 2

EU security budgets: Trends and numbers

section 3

Thematic analysis

section 4

Details of the security budgets

section 5


Download full report as PDF