Wendela de Vries
European arms giant EADS is selling all over the world: From India and Pakistan to Colombia and Kazakhstan. In 2011 it made a revenue of 50 billion euros, a quarter of which was earned by arms trade. The 2011 arms profit was 11.6 billion euro. With that amount of money you could provide basic education for all the children in the world who presently cannot go to school. EADS also produces civil planes, for example the Airbus passengers plane.
Nukes production for France
For military, police and security forces, EADS is producing helicopters, fighter jets (the Eurofighter Typhoon), drones, missiles and satellites. EADS is involved in border control projects such as drones for migrant control. And EADS is developing and producing nuclear missiles for the French Force de Frappe, the “proud heritage of Gaullism” according to EADS CEO Louis René Fernand Gallois. The nuclear production of EADS consist of the M51 nuclear rocket for the French navy and the new, tactical ASMP rocket for the air force. In French nuclear doctrine, the ASMP can be used as a last step before full scale nuclear war. It is only a small nuclear bomb, “only” ten times as strong as the bomb on Hiroshima. Analysts consider that such tactical nuclear weapons lower the threshold of nuclear war while the results are as devastating. The ASMP and the M51 are build by EADS company Astrium.
The company was formed by a merger of Spanish, French and German arms producers. Its headquarters are in the Netherlands. According to company communications this is because a “neutral country” is the best place for this international company. The fact that the Netherlands has favourable tax laws for international companies might be a more important reason. EADS has also big stakes in arms companies in the rest of Europe, eg in Finnish Patria. Because European states are cutting their defence budgets due to the economic crisis, EADS is putting more effort into the sale of arms to non-European countries. EADS participates in arms fairs in India (Defexpo), Chile (FIDAE), Jordan (SOFEX), Malaisia (DSA), Kazakhstan (KADEX), France (Eurosatory) and the UK (Farnborough).
Lobbying for support
Although the company is expanding to Asia and the US, its major base is the EU. Therefore EADS is a firm advocate of a common EU procurement policy, eg for the very competitive markets of fighter jets and drones. If the EU will not develop a common procurement strategy (again according to Gallois), “it will be the Americans who will run away with the contacts”. Indeed with the American Joint Strike Fighter, the French Rafale, the Swedish SAAB Gripen and the EADS Eurofighter all competing for a few contracts, and decisions about contracts mainly taken on the basis of political considerations”. EADS is lobbying with the European organisation of arms producers ASD for more EU support for the arms industry.
Protest at shareholders meeting
On 31 May in Amsterdam, about 100 peace activists gathered in the front drive of the hotel where EADS shareholders were having their Annual Meeting. The ranged from Occupy activists protesting against bank investment in EADS, to Catholic Workers preaching “love your enemy, do not profit from war”. There was street theatre from James Bond (himself) and his Bond girl, and some people had made “seed bombs” to throw into the public garden surrounding the venue (next year we will have strawberries and sunflowers). The Campagne tegen Wapenhandel, the Dutch anti-arms trade campaign, wrote an Alternative Annual Report for the shareholders meeting full of suggestions of better ways to invest money than in arms trade. Ten people had bought shares to be able to participate in the meeting and ask questions, but only four of them were allowed in. These however did put their questions and spoil the party for the War Profiteers of EADS by asking about arms exports to human rights violators, relations with Libya, the abuse of export credits for arms export and the gifts by EADS to German political parties. The other six stayed at the entrance, troubling the EADS officials and the ING Bank which is the only big bank in the Netherlands still investing in EADS.