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Europe Is Considering EU-Wide Armed Drone Regulations

With armed drone proliferation from the US and UK, the EU needs a clear and transparent stance on how armed drones are to be deployed.

Ben Sullivan

Ben Sullivan

Counterterrorism experts calling for a cohesive European Union policy on the deployment of armed drones have said that failing to take a unified position on the matter could lead to increased civilian deaths.

Jessica Dorsey, program officer at Dutch NGO PAX and associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in the Hague, presented her draft report to the European Union's subcommittee on human rights on Wednesday in Brussels, titled, 'Towards an EU common position on the use of armed drones.'

Dorsey suggested that if a combined policy for the use of armed drones by EU countries is not agreed upon with haste, there is a risk of further and increased civilian casualties.

"There's more and more evidence that armed drones are lowering the threshold to use force," said Dorsey, speaking in Brussels. "Because of this increase in the use of armed drones, there [are] an unknown number of civilian casualties."

Dorsey cited recent reports that two US Reaper drones launched four Hellfire missiles and a 500lb guided bomb on a community center and mosque in Syria last week, injuring and killing up to 50 civilians.

She called this a "concerning instance" that needs to be thought long and hard about.

Dorsey also said that the United States' increased deployment of armed drones in the Middle East only increases the urgency of settling upon a united EU stance. "President Trump has pledged to [give] more authority back to the CIA, relaxing and maybe eliminating already flawed standards used by the United States," she said. "It is time for the EU to act."

But any policies attempting to regulate armed drones will have to compete with increased interest from the European Commission in using them for defense and border patrol purposes. Last December, the European Parliament allocated millions of euros to researching drones as part of the European Defence Fund. While Britain is currently the only country within the EU to fire weapons from drones, France, Germany, and Italy have all deployed armed drones in the Middle East, according to drone monitoring website Drone Wars.

"If the EU doesn't come up with its own position it will be difficult for the EU to condemn [the use of] armed drones by a state or non-state actor," she said. Dorsey told Motherboard that a finalized report would be ready by April.

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