Peace activists as defence industry shareholders
Wendela de Vries
Campagne tegen Wapenhandel
The European Aeronatic Defence and Space company, EADS, is the second largest military producer in Europe. The company is owned by German Dailmer (producer of civil Mercedes cars but also of many types of military vehicles), the French company Lagardère, (partly state owned and partly privately owned by Arnaud Lagardère), a Spanish public investment fund and several big private investment funds. And also, surprisingly, by the peace movement. German peace activists bought shares for € 15 each, therewith buying access to the yearly shareholder meeting and the right to speak.
For tax reasons the EADS company has its head office in the Netherlands and shareholder meetings are held in Amsterdam. In 2004, Flemish peace group Vredesactie was there to protest, together with the Dutch Campagne tegen Wapenhandel. In 2005 it was the German Kritischen AktionärInnen Daimler on their own, and this year it was the Germans and the Dutch together who made the CEOs unhappy. The available speaking time (5 minutes share) was used fully to ask the EADS board about deliveries to repressive regimes and countries at war, about their part in the production of French nuclear arms (including the new M51 nuclear missile), and about the possibility of converting to peaceful production. Only about a quarter of EADS production is for military use. Apparently they are very proud of this quarter; the banners and video shown during the shareholders meeting were mostly from military products, including images of a missile attacking some sort of building and exploding.
The EADS board stressed in their answers that they kept strictly to the law (it would have been very suprising had they said otherwise in public), that they had an anti-corruption policy and a corporate responsibility policy (wow!) and that they were proud to participate in the French nuclear programme. Which is news, because in their official communication they deny being involved in nukes, making only the nuclear missile not the actual warhead.
What was not known at that time, but became clear from research and image analysis the following week, was that EADS helicopters were used in the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, only two days before this shareholder meeting, and nine peace activists were killed and many wounded.