Peace activists disturb arms lobby event with dance action
22-06-2017 -

Today a group of peace activists took action at the Belgian Royal Military School in Brussels, where an arms lobby event is taking place. On the tunes of the disco-beat ‘shame shame shame’, the activists have blocked the entrance to the event.

The lobby event, organised by ‘Cercle Royal Mars and Mercurius”, aims at bringing together participants from industry and defence. Titled “Defence and Industry Together to the Future”, the events wants to provide “the opportunity to valorize your company directly with the key responsible within Defence”.

“This event is one of those typical events in the shady world of the arms industry. Policy makers and arms dealers meet each other, network and make deals. This will not make the world a better place. On the contrary. This will only increase the profits of the arms industry.”, states Bram Vranken, spokesperson from the peace organisation Vredesactie.

Controversial sponsors

The event is sponsored by United Technologies and Honeywell, both are among the biggest arms companies in the world and are highly controversial.

In 2012 United Technologies violated the arms embargo on China by selling military hardware. The hardware enabled the Chinese government to construct its own very first attack helicopter. Honeywell is an important supplier of the Israeli government. The company maintains the Israeli F15 en F16’s fighter jets which have been used for bombing the Gaza strip. In 2014 the Israeli military committed war crimes and killed thousands of civilians.

“These companies don’t mind about human rights or international humanitarian law”, says one of the activists. “The only thing they do care about is to increase their profits.”

There will be several arms lobbyists among the speakers at today’s event. One of them, Renaud Bellais, chief economist at the defence company Airbus, will be sitting on the opening panel “new partnerships defence-industry: opportunities for employment and economy”.

The lobby event will also provide in exposition space for arms companies. Among others, the Belgian company Sabca will exhibit its products. Sabca is an important producer of aircraft components and has contributed to the Turkish A400M aircraft carriers.

Heads of state discuss EU defence

The lobby-event takes place at the same time as an important European summit on defence. The financing of the arms industry is high on the agenda of this summit. At the beginning of June, the European Commission proposed to use 500 million euros for improving the competitiveness of the European arms industry through a European Defence Industrial Development Programme.

In theory an analysis of real security threats should form the basis of security policies, but in practice however an economic policy is the engine driving defence policies. Policy makers should serve the public interest, not work to increase the profits of a highly controversial industry.

“A world with more weapons is not a safer world. War only has losers, except for the arms industry.”, says Vranken. “Arms lobbyists determine our security policy. This has to stop.”

 

European Commission wants to hand out 39 billion euros to arms industry
08-06-2017 -

The European Commission released new plans that favour the arms industry and blur the limits of its mandate regarding defence-related issues, paving the way for an over-influential European-level military-industrial complex.

The European Commission released new plans that favour the arms industry and blur the limits of its mandate regarding defence-related issues, paving the way for an over-influential European-level military-industrial complex.

Peace campaigners and the European Network Against Arms Trade warn against this further EC attempt to trivializing the production of weapons and enlarging insidiously its field of competences to defence. These proposals will not lead to peace and security, but will only increase the profits of the arms industry and exacerbate the global arms race.

Extra EU funding for the arms industry blurring the EC field of competences

The legislative proposal presented by the EC foresees in particular to allocate €500 million extra EU funding to the arms industry compared to what was proposed in the EC Defence Action Plan of November 2016. These funds would come from unspent allocations in 2019-2020. It is particularly worrying that the EC policy is now to divert unspent amounts to the arms industry rather than trying to improve existing programmes. Crucial areas are lacking funding like the EU human rights programme, or local civil society actors active in peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts who receive only about €6 million/year from the EU.

From 2021 on the EC contribution to the Defence fund would amount up to €1.5 billion every year. Internal documents from the EU have recently pointed out that the European Commission has had tens of meetings with the arms industry. These proposals are not in the interest of EU citizens, but will only benefit an industry which is fuelling armed conflicts.

Commission proposes exception for arms spending on budgetary austerity rules

The draft also proposes that voluntary national contributions complementing this EU funding should be exempted under the Stability and Growth Pact, in other words they would not be taken into account for the 3% deficit threshold that EU countries have to respect. It is particularly shocking that when European citizens are paying the price of austerity measures in their everyday life, public spending for arms is considered an investment deserving 'special treatment' while education, health, social care or environment protection are seen as a burden.

The EU has a critical role to play to confront the major challenges and numerous problems we are being faced with. Climate change, nuclear proliferation and increased inequality are only a few of them. But these problems will not be solved by investing more in weapons. On the contrary, higher military expenditure means less money to tackle these challenges in a sustainable way.

An industry-led policy by default of political vision and will produces no savings

A defence policy is never a goal on itself but is only one of the instruments of a foreign policy.

As long as a European foreign policy is lacking, a European defence policy is premature. And the difficulties to reach an agreement on a minimalist common military command centre 10 years after the Lisbon treaty demonstrate once again the absence of political will and trust among member states.

Without political leadership, what remains is an industrial policy. The result is a set of proposals that favours arms companies, including their capacity to export sophisticated weaponry, funded with public money, to non-EU countries. And there will be no savings either: European NATO countries committed to increase their military spending up to 2% of their GDP and the EU contribution will be an add-on to national spending.

This will not only be a waste of public money but will also exacerbate global instability rather than contribute to “defending” Europe.

Stop funding the arms industry
23-05-2017 -

In the run up to the NATO summit that will take place later this week in Brussels, a group of peace activists is occuyping the offices of the European Commission. With their action they denounce the steps the European Union is taking to start a military research programme carried out by the arms industry.

In the run up to the NATO summit that will take place later this week in Brussels, a group of peace activists is occuyping the offices of the European Commission. With their action they denounce the steps the European Union is taking to start a military research programme carried out by the arms industry.

This morning activists entered the offices of the European Commission, occupied the building and set up tents. They say they won’t leave as long as the EU does not stop giving money to the arms industry.

“While the Middle-East is burning, the European Union is subsidizing an industry which is exporting death and conflict.”, says one of the activists. “Our security and the security of millions of others is being put at risk for the profit of the arms industry.”

The EU has recently started subsidizing the arms industry with a military research programme. Initially the funding will amount to 90 million euro. This is only a preparatory programme. The European Commission’s long term objective is to set up a full-fledged European Defence Research Programme worth EUR 3.5 billion over 2021-2027.

“Trump may tell NATO member states to increase their defence budget, this does not mean the EU should just foot billions of euros to the arms industry”, says Bram Vranken, spokesperson for the Belgian peace organisation Vredesactie.

Increasing defence budgets is expected to be high on the agenda of the NATO summit this week.

“No Europe tailored to the demands of the arms industry”

The European Commission has put defence high on the agenda with the launch of the European Defence Action Plan. The Action Plan proposes a list of measures aimed at supporting the arms industry.

“That’s no surprise”, says Vranken. “The arms industry is a welcome guest at the European Commission”. Earlier this year internal documents revealed the Commission has had tens of meetings with the arms industry regarding the Preparatory Action on Defence Research.

“Strengthening the arms industry does not lead to a secure Europe in a safer world. On the contrary. European weapons are being used in conflicts worldwide and are a catalyst for violence and conflict”, continues Vranken.

EU member states are responsible for 28,4 percent of worldwide arms exports, according to the research institute SIPRI, including to countries involved in violent conflicts. Almost half of Saudi arms imports are European.

“It’s time the EU realizes funding the arms industry is not a sustainable way to create peace and securtiy. We hope the action today will be a wake-up call for EU policy makers”, says Vranken.

Peace activists protest at EU workshop for arms dealers
28-03-2017 -

Today a group of twenty peace activists took action at the European Defence Agency (EDA) in Brussels, to protest an EU workshop aimed at informing arms dealers about the financial support that Europe has to offer them.

The peace activists covered themselves with red blood-like paint, preventing access to the European Defence Agency. “While the Middle-East is burning, arms dealers are filling their pockets with our tax money,” says one of the activists. “The EU is funding an industry which has blood on its hands”.

The EU has recently started subsidising the arms industry with a military research programme. The first funding will amount to 90 million euro, but this is only a preparatory programme. The European Commission’s long term objective is to set up a fully-fledged European Defence Research Programme worth EUR 3.5 billion over 2021-2027.

“It’s outrageous that an industry which turns war into profit, and has an annual turnover of 100 billion euros gets EU subsidies”, says Bram Vranken, spokesperson of the Belgian peace organisation Vredesactie. “An industry with an annual turnover of 100 billion euro can pay for its own Research and Development.”

EU-developed weapons might end up in conflict areas

The EU prioritises the development of autonomous weapons and armed drones, which are highly controversial. In 2014 the European Parliament called for disarmament of armed drones and a ban on the development of autonomous weapons, also known as killer robots. In an open letter, thousands of scientists spoke out about the risks of an arms race in killer robots.

According to Vredesactie chances are real that these weapons developed with EU money will end up in the wrong hands. “The property rights of these technologies will go to the arms companies involved,” says Vranken. “These companies can then freely export these military technologies to conflict areas.”

“That the EU wants to use public money for military research is not only absurd, but also unethical”, says Vranken. "This will not lead to more peace and a secure Europe."

www.facebook.com/Istopthearmstrade.eu
www.ikstopwapenhandel.eu

 

 

EU defence policy ready for psychiatric treatment
22-03-2017 -

Calls for a more militarised Europe have grown and grown, while the EU Council recently concluded that “Europe must commit additional resources” to defence. But increasing military expenditure is not the way forward.

Calls for a more militarised Europe have grown and grown, while the EU Council recently concluded that “Europe must commit additional resources” to defence. But increasing military expenditure is not the way forward.

This article appeared on Euractiv.

Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. According to this definition our defence policy is ready for psychiatric treatment.

With mounting pressure from the Trump administration to increase military expenditure, defence spending is high on the European agenda.

In November, the Commission proposed measures which would earmark €3.5 billion of the EU budget to the arms industry to develop new military technologies from 2021 onward, with the objective of boosting “the competitiveness of the European arms industry”.

Other measures include wider access to EU funds such as COSME (for SMEs), regional funds and Erasmus +, as well as new funding from the European Investment Bank for military projects.

More military expenditure, however, won’t lead to peace and security. The problem isn’t the lack of weapons, but the lack of political vision for sustainable peace.

Do we really not spend enough on defence already?

A look at the total sum of military spending puts things into perspective. EU member states combined are the second biggest military power in the world. Only the United States spend more on defence.

In 2015 alone, EU countries spent the astronomical sum of €203.14 billion on their armies and weaponry.

By comparison, the Russian military budget is approximately €60 billion a year. Since the end of the Cold War, EU member states have systematically overspent Russia by a factor of more than three to one. If the result is that Europe is still military weaker than Russia, then something has gone terribly wrong with our taxpayers’ money.

Under the NATO framework EU members have regularly reiterated their commitment to spend 2% of their GDP on the military sector. This would mean a drastic increase of €85 billion annually leading to severe budget cuts in other budget lines such as social security and development aid, but won’t make us safer.

But isn’t a European army more efficient? If all 28 countries would join their military budgets that would mean more bang for one’s buck, wouldn’t it?

That’s the big question: which objectives should a common European defence policy serve? What operations would a European army be involved in?

A defence policy is never a goal on itself but is only one of the instruments of a foreign policy. As long as a European foreign policy is lacking, a European defence policy is premature.  The most important distinction between an army and a gang of robbers is that an army is politically controlled.

Giving money to the arms industry, as proposed by the European Commission, without resolving these serious shortcomings will not only be a waste of public money but will also exacerbate instability.

The arms industry is an industry unlike any other but one that profits from selling weaponry worldwide. Such an industry should not receive preferential treatment from the EU.

In the absence of political leadership, what remains is an economic policy. The result is a set of proposals that favours arms companies, including their capacity to export sophisticated weaponry, funded with public money, to non-EU countries.

For decades we have been told that more weapons and military spending would lead to more security and stability. However, none of the major conflicts of the last decades have been solved through military means. The military interventions in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq were disasters which have only made matters worse.

Rather than repeating the mistakes of the past, the EU should come up with more innovative and courageous solutions in tackling the root causes of conflicts and drastically increase its support to peaceful ways of resolving them.

Of course, the EU has a critical role to play to confront the major challenges and numerous problems we are being faced with. Climate change, nuclear proliferation and increased inequality are only a few of them.

These problems will not be solved by investing more in weapons. On the contrary, higher military expenditure means less money to tackle these challenges in a sustainable way.

Video lecture: 'The arms trade is disrupting the world'
02-03-2017 -

On February 22nd Andrew Feinstein and Samuel Perlo-Freeman talked about the relation between the arms trade and corruption. You can watch the videos of their lectures (in English) here.

On February 22nd Andrew Feinstein and Samuel Perlo-Freeman talked about the relation between the arms trade and corruption. You can watch the videos of their lectures (in English) here.

How the arms industry is staging a European coup
23-01-2017 -

The EU is increasingly taking a pro-military stance, as the arms lobby exercises more influence. The election of Antoni Tajani last week as European Parliament president means the arms industry’s influence will grow further in the coming years, warns Bram Vranken.

This article originally appeared on EurActive.

The EU is increasingly taking a pro-military stance, as the arms lobby exercises more influence. The election of Antoni Tajani last week as European Parliament president means the arms industry’s influence will grow further in the coming years, warns Bram Vranken.

On 17 January 1961, then US President Dwight Eisenhower warned against the dangers of the  military-industrial complex. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Exactly 56 years later Eisenhower’s warning is more poignant than ever. On Tuesday 17 January, Antonio Tajani, well known for his pro-arms industry stance, was elected as new president of the European Parliament.

In 2013, Tajani said “he wanted to promote the arms industry”. As European Commissioner, Tajani outlined several policy schemes aimed at “strengthening the European defence industry”.

It’s no coincidence that Tajani is honorary president of the Sky and Space Intergroup, which is  hosted by the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD), the most important lobby group of the European arms industry.

Money for weapons, not for social security

Already the EU is taking a turn for the worse. In November, the European Commission proposed a European Defence Action Plan. The aim of this plan is to “focus on capability needs and support the European defence industry”. Not surprisingly, the European Defence Action Plan almost exactly mirrors the propositions made in a position paper published in July by ASD Europe.

The proposed measures seriously endanger the EU as a civilian power. The Commission wants to give €3.5 billion to the arms industry to develop new military technologies from 2021 onward.  Additionally, the Commission proposes to stimulate member states to spend more on defence by deducting the costs of cooperative weapon programmes from their budgetary deficits.

In other words, while member states are forced to cut spending on social security, education and health care, spending on weapons would be exempt from any budgetary discipline. While millions of people in Europe have suffered from destitution and poverty due to the harsh austerity measures, the European Commission now cynically proposes to give billions of euros to the arms industry.

No political vision

Nobody knows where these weapons will be used. There barely is a common European foreign policy. Member states are deeply divided on how to tackle the crises in the Middle East. Without a strategic vision, financing military related programmes will only serve the short term interest of the arms industry.

But that seems exactly the European Commission’s objective. “The European Union needs a strong and competitive arms industry”, is the mantra the European Commission has been repeating over and over again.

The EU is confronted with dazzling problems. Populism is on the rise, the middle class is in crisis, inequality has never been higher and we are confronted with a catastrophic climate crisis. None of these problems will be solved by investing more in weapons.

On the contrary, military expenditure forms a huge opportunity cost to the detriment of billions of people around the world. According to research institute SIPRI, only 10% of global military expenditure would be enough to provide free and quality education (Sustainable Development Goal 4).

To eradicate poverty and hunger (SDGs 1 and 2) another 10% of the global military budgets would be sufficient. All SDGs could be accomplished by less than half of the worldwide military budget.

Eisenhower continued his speech in 1961 by saying that “only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”.

That a pro-arms industry MEP is now leading the representative body of the European citizenry is extremely worrying.

Peace activists stop arms lobby: "No EU money for arms dealers"
10-11-2016 -

Today over one hundred peace activists take action at the annual conference of the European Defence Agency. They block the entrance to the conference to protest the decision taken by the European Union to subsidize military research, which may hand over billions of euros to the arms industry.

Today over one hundred peace activists take action at the annual conference of the European Defence Agency. They block the entrance to the conference to protest the decision taken by the European Union to subsidize military research, which may hand over billions of euros to the arms industry.

We do not want any of our tax payer's money going to the arms industry”, says one of the activists, who is trying to stop a meeting of arms dealers and policy makers. The EDA annual conference is an annual happening where the arms industry meets politicians to discuss issues of defence cooperation and the future of the European arms industry.

It’s ridiculous that an industry which turns war into profit, lobbies for EU subsidies”, says Bram Vranken, spokesperson of the Belgian peace organisation Vredesactie. “An industry with an annual turnover of 100 billion euros should pay for its own Research and Development.”

Subsidies for arms companies

The European Parliament will be voting on the 2017 budget at the end of November. One of the more controversial aspects of the 2017 budget is the funding of a military research and development programme.

Initially the funding would amount to 90 million euros. This is only a preparatory programme. The European Commission’s long term objective is to set up a fully-fledged European Defence Research Programme worth EUR 3.5 billion over 2021-2027.

This is a drastic change to EU policy. Until now, military research has always been excluded from EU budget lines. “That’s only logical”, says Vranken, “The European Union has always presented itself as a peace project. That’s why it received a Nobel Peace Prize a couple of years ago. The EU should remain a peace project. We don’t need another interventionist power.”

The influence of a powerful lobby

The annual EDA conference shows the influence the arms lobby has on EU policy making. The EDA website boasts that the conference is “a unique platform for senior decision-makers to consider how to ensure that the [arms] sector remains fit for purpose”. The EDA is an official EU agency with the explicit mission of strengthening the European arms industry.

Not surprisingly EU member states are responsible for 28,4 percent of worldwide arms exports, according to the research institute SIPRI, including to countries involved in violent conflicts. Almost half of Saudi arms imports are European.

I do not want to put my security in the hands of the arms industry”, says one of the activists. “This will only lead to more arms exports, more violence and more war.

Our politicians cannot stop talking about tackling the root causes of conflict. The end of November they can make their priorities clear: do they want a Europe which subsidizes the arms industry or do they finally start working on conflict prevention and resolution”, Vranken adds.

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You can find high resolution pictures on flickr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 reasons why subsidies for military technology are a bad idea
30-08-2016 -

On Wednesday 31 August the European Parliament will cast their vote on subsidizing military technology. The arms industry has been lobbying for years for their deadly technology to be subsidized by the EU. Instead of subsidizing the arms industry, Europe would do better by investing in peace. Read here 12 reasons why the European Network Against the Arms Trade (ENAAT) calls the European Parliament to vote against any subsidies for the arms industry.

On Wednesday 31 August the European Parliament will cast their vote on subsidizing military technology. The arms industry has been lobbying for years for their deadly technology to be subsidized by the EU. Instead of subsidizing the arms industry, Europe would do better by investing in peace. Read here 12 reasons why the European Network Against the Arms Trade (ENAAT) calls the European Parliament to vote against any subsidies for the arms industry.

Activists on roof of arms factory "stop arming Saudi Arabia"
19-05-2016 -

Peace activists are taking action at the arms company Advionics in Oostkamp (Belgium). This morning they climbed up on the roof of the company, put up banners and set up their tents. With their action they denounce the export of arms to Saudi Arabia. They demand that the Flemish government fixes the loopholes in the Flemish arms export laws.

Peace activists are taking action at the arms company Advionics in Oostkamp (Belgium). This morning they climbed up on the roof of the company, put up banners and set up their tents. With their action they denounce the export of arms to Saudi Arabia. They demand that the Flemish government fixes the loopholes in the Flemish arms export laws.

The Flemish Peace Institute, an independent research institute, has revealed that the Saudi Eurofighter fighter jets are equipped with radars produced by Advionics. Initially, these were exported to Germany, but they ended up in Saudi Arabia. The Flemish government didn't have any knowledge at all about the final destination of the radars.

“The radars produced by Advionics are being used to bomb Yemen. The Saudi led coalition bombs hospitals, refugee camps and other infrastructure. It's horrid that Flemish weapons are being used in such a conflict. We refuse to leave this roof until the Flemish government stops exporting these weapons”, says one of the activists.

Flemish arms: nobody knows who's using them

During a radio interview early this year Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois claimed he has a full view of the end-use of Flemish arms exports. That's a outright lie. In reality the Flemish government barely knows where its weapons are going to. In 2015 69,4 percent of the end-use of Flemish arms was unknown. The Flemish arms export laws use a system of general licensing. The end-use of these general licenses are per definition unknown.

“All considerations regarding security, peace and human rights are neglected to the benefit of economic profit,” says Bram Vranken from Vredesactie. “The Saudi use of the radars produced by Advionics is a poignant example of the consequences of such a policy.”

Flemish government cannot keep it's own promises

In January minister-president Bourgeois said it is very unlikely that any weapons will be exported to Saudi Arabia in the future. The minister president bluffs.

“Officially the Flemish government doesn't export any arms to Saudi Arabia. Everybody agrees this is a bad idea. Including minister-president Bourgeois,” says Bram Vranken from Vredesactie. “Research shows however components produced by Advionics are ending up in Saudi Arabia. Without a fundamental revision of the arms trade decree Bourgeois cannot even keep his own promises.”

One of the activists on the roof says: “It's completely irresponsible to export weapons without even knowing where they will end up. Arms trade does not lead to a safer Europe in a safer world. On the contrary. The conflicts in the Middle East are fueled by our weapons. This has to stop immediately.”

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Support the activists!

Joins us in Oostkamp to show the activists on the roof that they're not alone. The adress: Siemenslaan 16 in 8020 Oostkamp (Oostkamp is close to Bruges, the Siemenslaan is a 20 minute walk from the trains tation of Oostkamp, near exit 9 ont the E40). Keep an eye on our facebook page for updates on the action or call us for more info: 0472/513766.

The Flemish arms export laws are leaky as a sieve. Send an e-mail to Flemish MEPs and ask them to urgently strive for a strict and stringent arms export policy. E-mailing is fast and easy through this online form.

Want to learn more about the arms trade in Flanders?

More background information on Belgian and Flemish arms exports are available here (in Dutch).
Our proposals for a strict and stringent arms export policy can be found in this file (in Dutch).

 

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