Peace activists stop arms lobby: 'No EU money for arms dealers'

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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