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.”

The theme of the EDA-conference was: the defence industry and the military capabilities of the European armies. Thus, for Van Rompuy 'the means' are: weapons and an army that can intervene worldwide. When spoken of in this way, the European peace-project looks more and more like a war-project. The common foreign and security policy is weak, but everybody talks of a strong European Defence Technological and Industrial Base. As if a flourishing arms industry leads to a safer Europe in a safer world.

Vredesactie has been following the movements of the European Union with suspicion. Unmistakably the EU has become a military power. It has the competence, the institutions and the operational structures to intervene militarily worldwide. The fact that member states do not agree on a common foreign policy is the main reason why to date there are not that many military operations under the EU-banner.

Too often the U.S. is considered the only state willing to use violence to secure its national interests. Nevertheless, Tony Blair was one of the major proponents of the Iraq-war during his term as Prime Minister of the U.K. And France doesn't shy away from headstrong military interventions when its interests in so called 'Françafrique' are at stake. The intervention in Mali is the most recent example, but France played a leading role in Libya too. France has also conducted military operations in Ivory Coast, Tchad, Central African Republic over the past 10 years. It is an illusion to think a military EU will be less of a warmonger than its Member States.

The goal: a flourishing arms industry

One of the most worrying evolutions is the big influence of the arms industry on European policy. Whether it's about Pooling and Sharing, regulation of international arms trade or the priorities of European research policy, even migration policy, the arms industry is very successful in promoting its military-technological 'solutions'. The CEO's and lobbyists of the arms industry are viewed as defence- and security experts and are closely involved in shaping EU policy. The fact that their primary objective is always commercial interest is too often forgotten or considered unimportant. But these 'experts' know perfectly well their core-business and how to sell it. In order to become active in as many markets and policy domains as possible, they first frame every social phenomenon as a problem. Next, from every problem they make a security issue. And finally, they argue that every security issue has a technological solution. And obviously, the arms industry can provide that technology for a nice price. Whether it’s about migration, the internet, health care, international transport, there is nowhere that the arms industry does not try to impose its military logic.

The mark of the arms industry

There is no common vision for a European foreign and defence policy, but one certainty resurfaces again and again: the European Union needs a flourishing arms industry. In EU-newspeak, this is called 'an innovative and competitive European Defence Technological and Industrial Base'. The whole European Union seems to be permeated by this self-evident truth. Creating a flourishing arms industry is one of the major objectives of the European Defence Agency (EDA). Does it come as a surprise that the European Arms industry talks about EDA as its baby? But also the European Commission (EC) is working hard: in 2011 EC president Emanuel Barroso and commisioner for industry and enterprise Antonio Tajani created a task-force to strengthen the defence industry. In direct consultation with the arms manufacturers themselves, the European Commission is investigating how it can help the arms industry stay competitive on a Global level. Mid-2013 the task force will make its recommendations known.

On paper the European Union only funds civil research programmes. In practice we know that weapons manufacturers get a nice share of the cake. Starting in 2014 however, new rules will apply. The new financing programme of the EU is called Horizon 2020 and will run from 2014 until 2020.The original proposal of the European Commission reiterated that the research programmes should only lead to civil purposes. But some members of parliament did not like that. Well known allies of the weapons industry such as the German Christian Ehler and the French ex-secret agent Arnaud Danjean submitted amendments to drop that specific phrase from the proposal. The legal framework for Horizon 2020 is not finished yet, but caution is advised.

Even the strengthening of a European arms industry is explicitly mentioned in the EU common position on arms exports. The EU Common Position contains 8 criteria that Member States must take into consideration when granting arms export licenses. But next to beautiful principles about democracy and human rights, the Member States are also allowed to take commercial interests of the arms industry into consideration. The license of the Walloon government to deliver FN-made arms to Kadhaffi's army is one of the sad examples of such compromises.


One of the motivations behind the proponents of a flourishing arms industry is the widespread belief in the thesis: “What's good for our corporations is good for everybody”. If there is one industrial sector where this thesis is obviously false, then it is the arms industry. But also in general, corporate interests almost never coincide with public interests. Nevertheless the above-mentioned thesis is at the core of the European Union – the grand objective of making the EU the most competitive economy in the world is the logical consequence of it. With such an objective, it is not a surprise to find corporate representatives posing as experts at the core of EU policy making. In contrast, civil society is either neglected, patronized or just seen as annoying. Whether it’s about the arms trade, agricultural policy or the regulation of the financial sector.

With its campaign Ctrl+Alt+EU, Vredesactie will challenge the status quo! When civil society wants itself to be heard, it will have to be where policy making takes place: between the lobbyists and the policy-makers. We oppose the militarisation of the EU and we want it to stop. We will expose the corporate infiltration in the EU-institutions, and we will burst the expert-bubble. The campaign Ctrl+Alt+EU will reboot the European Union. It's our last chance before we will have to pull the plug.

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