Shareholders of arms giant welcomed by protest


Wendela de Vries

The second biggest arms company of Europe, EADS, has its headquarters in the Netherlands. Although these headquarters are not much more than a mailbox – EADS has the same tax policies as Starbucks – it means the company falls under Dutch law and has to have an annual shareholders meeting in Amsterdam. It has become a good Dutch tradition to welcome the EADS shareholders with banners and loud noise.

EADS has been much in the news over the last months. First, because it attempted to merge with Europe's No 1 arms manufacturer, BAE Systems. Had this merger succeeded, it would have created the biggest global arms company. However, the German government was not charmed by the idea of loosing its grip on EADS (the German state is shareholder, as are the French and the Spanish states) and blocked the merger. It was a very informative process for a further understanding of the close interconnection between the arms industry and the state, while at the same time the economic interests of the arms industry do not run parallel with the political and military interests of the state.

The relationship between the German government and EADS deteriorated even further when, just a few days before the Annual Shareholder's Meeting, German defence minister De Maziere terminated a drone programme on which EADS has been working with the US arms company Northop Grumman. For EADS this drone programme was of extreme importance; the company has been trying for years to become the leading producer of a European drone design, in a drone market dominated by Israel and the US. EADS has developed several drone types but has found no European government interested so far, apart from this now terminated programme of the Euro Drone.

Besides a protest outside, the Dutch peace group Campagne tegen Wapenhandel organised a protest inside. The group own's some shares, and also “borrowed” some shares from German activists from the group Kritischen Aktionäre, which gave them admission to the shareholders meeting and a 3-minute speaking time per shareholder. The Campagne tegen Wapenhandel asked questions, amongst others, about the corruption case in which EADS is involved, about state subsidies for military Research and Technology, and about illegally re-exported EADS war material which was found in Syria. The Campagne tegen Wapenhandel also brought in some ICAN (International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons) campaigners who asked questions on EADS's nuclear missile programme. Based on the recent failure of a test launch of an EADS M-51 nuclear missile, when the missile put itself on self-destruct and exploded shortly after launch, the ICAN activists making this self-destruct standard on all missiles so they would not reach target and would do no harm. This proposal, alas, was not adopted by EADS.

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