The members of the European Parliament’s Industry and Research Committee decided on Wednesday (21 February) that the development of small arms and light weapons for export purposes should not be excluded from a new EU Defence Research Fund.

However, they have created a list of other types of weapons which must not be supported by taxpayers’ money in the EU.

The parliamentary committee voted on the EC proposal for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme worth €500 million.

In the original Commission proposal, as well as the version of the text supported by national governments, it was not raised whether the controversial types of weapons should be eligible for funding.

With the amendment, MEPs voted to ban projects relating to weapons of mass destruction to be eligible for EU funding, as well as fully autonomous weapons known colloquially as ‘killer robots’.

They stated that “projects relating to weapons of mass destruction and associated warheads technologies”, as well as “those relating to prohibited weapons and ammunition” must not be eligible for funding.

The other red lines include weapons that are not in line with international humanitarian law, such as cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines, as well as “totally autonomous weapons that allow strikes without human control”.

Recently, the leading experts in artificial intelligence in the world have been alarming precisely for the emergence of robots and machines which cannot be easily controlled.

“Deadly weapons are threatening to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will allow armed conflicts to become bigger than ever and to happen faster”, the experts warned in an open letter last summer.

Addressed to the UN, the open letter was presented at a conference on artificial intelligence, on the eve of the meeting of government experts on autonomous weapons.