European Union (EU)

Arming the European Union?

By Wendela de Vries

“Secure societies – Protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.”

WRI signs ENAAT statement: European Union must end its military support for Israel

http://www.enaat.org/news/IsraelGaza.shtml

As the conflict in the Gaza Strip continues to escalate, and the body count continues to increase, the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) has called for an immediate end to all European military support for Israel and for the EU to declare a comprehensive arms embargo on all parties in conflict. Pending such an embargo, all EU states must immediately suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and ammunitions to the parties in conflict.

EU, Business as usual?

On 19th and 20th December, European leaders met in Brussels. During the summit, the fortification of the European arms industry was explicitly on the agenda. While it preaches austerity across the board, the EU is poised to increase military expenditure. The goal: to safeguard the 'global competitiveness' of the European arms industry.

Campaign of the Month: Ctrl+Alt+EU

European president Herman Van Rompuy has put military Europe high on the political agenda. Only three months after receiving the Nobel peace prize, he concluded a speech at the annual conference of the European Defence Agency (EDA) as follows: “Europe was born out of the ashes of a war. And built, at first, by pooling (and sharing!) the instruments of war: coal and steel […]. The European Union stands by those in pursuit of peace and human dignity. To fulfil such responsibilities, we should make sure we have the means at our disposal.”

Peace activists take action against the militarisation of Europe

On October 7th, activists from Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix were taking action against the European Commission. Posing as arms dealers they hosted a Thank You EU reception in a pool of blood. “The arms dealers thank the EU for its generous support”, was the message. With the action Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix draw attention to the growing militarisation of the European Union. They also denounce the grip of the arm industry on EU policy.

Freedom Flotilla - solidarity from words to action

Jørgen Johansen

The illegal blockade of Gaza has been condemned by most major international actors. The horrible consequences of this brutal violation of humanitarian law are unacceptable from every point of view. One and a half million people interned on the small strip (45 square km) between Israel, the Mediterranean, and Egypt. The blockade has reduced the transport of goods to and from Gaza by 80%.

Europe's oldest embargo - arms sales to superpower China

Frank Slijper

After the bloody suppression of protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, the European Union (and the US) ordered an arms embargo that applies until today. From a human rights perspective this is fully justified: the situation remains appalling and attempts at democratic reforms are nipped in the bud. At the same time the embargo is also clearly politically motivated, to keep China as small as possible in military terms. While the economic relationship with China has grown, military co-operation rightly remains a thorny issue. Despite cracks in the embargo it won't be off the table any time soon. Yet it is a question how long the blockade will be maintained with China strengthening its power base.

Capitalist crisis and European defence industry

Wendela de Vries

Of the global top 20 arms producers, 4 European companies are ranked in high positions. Leading is British BAE Systems (former British Aerospace). The Swedish peace research institute SIPRI even ranked BAE Systems as the biggest global arms producer in 2008, but US weekly Defence News, using another ranking system, is listing BAE Systems third after the American companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Besides BAE the three other European giants are Italy’s Finmeccanica and formally Dutch-based EADS, both  mainly aeronautical companies, and French electronics company Thales. The output of these giants is bigger than the output of many a developing nation. They arose from the mid-1990’s in a process of mergers and acquisitions, when international (notably American) competition forced European defence companies to overcome national limits in order to survive. At that time a lot of state-owned defence companies were privatised, facilitating the accumulation process. Still national governments often kept a say in their defence industries: Finmeccanica is 30% state-owned, Thales is 27% French state-owned and EADS is partly French state and a Spanish state holding company-owned. Note that, in contrast, BAE Systems is private, although the company can count on strong government support, including export promotion, sales financing and even covering up of high-level corruption.

EU Member States ”downplaying” rules on arms exports

A network of NGOs has published a list of questionable arms export practices by EU states, including corruption, arms sales to human rights abusers and exports that fuel conflict in the developing world.

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