Peace activists take action against the militarisation of Europe

On October 7th, activists from Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix were taking action against the European Commission. Posing as arms dealers they hosted a Thank You EU reception in a pool of blood. “The arms dealers thank the EU for its generous support”, was the message. With the action Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix draw attention to the growing militarisation of the European Union. They also denounce the grip of the arm industry on EU policy.

The action was taking place in front of the premises of the Directorate General of Industry and Enterprise, one of the most important administrations of the European Commission. This administration stimulates the arms industry with subsidies and other business friendly measures. Recently it published its recommendations for strengthening the European defence industry. These recommendations were drafted in close cooperation with the arms manufacturers. A policy tailored to the needs of the arms industry does not lead to a safer Europe.

“Thank you EU”

Tom Cox, press speaker of the activists: “With this thank you reception in a pool of blood, we visualise the bloody truth behind the arms trade numbers and the figures of the defence industry. The big winners of EU policy are the arms manufacturers. The losers are the world-wide casualties of weapons 'made in EU'. But also European citizens lose, as they have no voice in this European policy. Moreover they are burdened with a policy that does not lead to a safer Europe.”

The EU subsidizes the arms industry

In recent years, the arms industry was among the big receivers of EU subsidies for Research and Development. In 2007-2013, 1.4 billion euro was allocated to so called security research1. With this money, European arms manufacturers funded the development of new weapon technology.

Tom Cox: “Officially, European money for R&D can exclusively be used for civilian applications. However, there is no guarantee that results from this research are not used in weapon technology.” One of the projects funded by the EU, known as OPARUS, was the development of a specific element of unmanned aerial vehicles, so called drones. This project, with a budget of 1 million euro, was carried out by a consortium consisting of all big arms manufacturers in Europe and Israel.

The arms industry will also profit from the new R&D program, Horizon 2020. Recently, the Commission offered another 100 million euro for the development of a European fighter drone. “This will effectively become a killer robot that can autonomously decide on the life and death of targeted individuals. The recommendations from the European Commission reveal that she does not have any questions about the desirability of such a killer robot or of other weapon technology. For the Commission the only thing that counts is: if it's good for the European arms industry, we have to promote it”, says Tom Cox.

Arms industry is a privileged partner of the EU

For the European Commission a strong European arms industry is an end in itself. This is stated on her website and in her recommendations for EU policy that she published in July 20132. She regularly sits together with the arms industry, and the latter leaves a strong imprint on EU policy. In so-called expert groups, the industry co-decides which new directives or policy initiatives the Commission should take. In these expert groups, industry representatives are overrepresented.

“The grip of the arms industry on European policy is dangerous” says Tom Cox. “The representatives of the arms industry are seen as so-called defence and security experts. In doing so one tends to forget that the only objective of the industry is: to sell more weapon technology. But a world in which more arms are circulating is definitely not a safer world.”

Start of the campaign Ctrl+Alt+EU: no military Europe

This is the kick-off action of the campaign “Ctrl+Alt+EU: no military Europe” of Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix. In the run-up to the European elections in May 2014, we will take action in the European Quarter in Brussels. We will burst the Brussels Bubble: we will disrupt business as usual and expose the links between the arms industry and EU policy makers. On 19 and 20 December the European heads of state will convene in Brussels. Supporting and strengthening the European arms industry is explicitly on the agenda. While the EU is preaching austerity everywhere, it has no reservations about increasing military spending. Therefore, Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix call for actions on 19 December 2013.

Pictures of the action are here

Footnotes:

1http://ec.europa.eu/research/fp7/index_en.cfm?pg=security

2http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/defence/defence-industrial-policy/index_en.htm