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Activists on roof CMI defence: Belgium is complicit in the Yemen war
25-03-2019 -

This morning, peace activists took action at CMI Group's headquarters in Seraing and in Namur, to expose Belgian complicity in the war in Yemen. The Saudi-led bombing of Yemen began four years ago in March 2015.

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This morning, peace activists took action at CMI Group's headquarters in Seraing and in Namur, to expose Belgian complicity in the war in Yemen. The Saudi-led bombing of Yemen began four years ago in March 2015. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project estimates that over 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the start of 2016.  The estimate only includes deaths directly caused by violence.

The activists scaled the CMI Group building and dropped a banner reading 'Yemen: 60,000 dead. Stop Arming Saudi'. They poured red paint on the building symbolising the blood that has been spilled by the conflict and posted facts about the war, including number of people dead by starvation and cholera on its windows.

CMI Defence (a subsidiary of CMI Group) has sold its turrets to the Canadian company General Dynamics, who equips its light-armored vehicles bound for Saudi Arabia with them. The "contract of the century" of 4.5 billion euros was agreed in 2014. Meanwhile, images from Yemen prove Belgian arms are being used by warring parties. Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix publish a dossier today, documenting Belgian involvement in the conflict.

In Namur, activists hung a 20 metre banner on the bridge between the Walloon Parliament and the Elysette reminding the Wallonian government of its complicity in the war : "Yemen: how many deaths before stopping arming Saudi Arabia?" 

"By continuing to licence arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Walloon government is complicit in an illegal war which has seen more than 60 000 deaths and has made Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis according to the United Nations" says one of the activists. 85,000 children have lost their lives from the consequences of the conflict: hunger and cholera.
 
Despite repeated demands by the European Parliament in recent years for an embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Belgium continues to turn a deaf ear.
"How long will we continue to accept blood on our hands?"
 

Presscontact:

Lene Jacobs, lene@vredesactie.be

Persdossier (in Dutch)

https://bit.ly/2FphqRt

Pictures

https://www.flickr.com/photos/vredesactie/albums

Updates

https://www.facebook.com/Istopthearmstrade.eu/

https://twitter.com/Vredesactie

 

 

Captured states: when EU governments are a channel for corporate interests
06-02-2019 -

Do you know why your phone bill is still higher than it should be when you travel within the EU? Or why you and your food will still be exposed to the pesticide glyphosate in the coming years? Or why banks got their way after the financial crisis, while you shouldered the impacts of austerity? Corporate lobbies are actively influencing decision-making to ensure that EU laws and policies suit them, including via national ministers and officials. Member states play a hugely important role in EU decision-making but too often they act as a channel for corporate interests.

Do you know why your phone bill is still higher than it should be when you travel within the EU? Or why you and your food will still be exposed to the pesticide glyphosate in the coming years? Or why banks got their way after the financial crisis, while you shouldered the impacts of austerity?

Corporate lobbies are actively influencing decision-making to ensure that EU laws and policies suit them, including via national ministers and officials. Member states play a hugely important role in EU decision-making but too often they act as a channel for corporate interests.

These corporate lobbies include famous national brands such as Volkswagen and Telefónica; iconic sectors like the finance industry in the City of London or the Polish coal industry; controversial sectors like the arms industry and high-spending EU trade associations such as BusinessEurope and CEFIC (the European Chemicals Industry Council). And whether it is on defence, climate change, finance, chemicals, data privacy or many other issues, when corporate interests win, the public interest loses out.

Many of the ways in which member states feed into EU decision-making are shrouded in secrecy and not commonly studied. The Corporate Europe Observatory report “Captured states: when EU governments are a channel for corporate interests” breaks new ground by providing an overview of how member states act as middlemen for corporate interests. Through case studies, original research, and analysis, the report maps corporate influence channelled via the Council of the European Union (where member states’ ministers and officials input into EU law-making and policy-making), the European Council (where heads of government of EU nations make pronouncements on the EU’s direction of travel), and the EU’s committee structure (which provide member states with key seats at the table to discuss the technical and scientific detail of EU laws).

Member states are the missing part of the jigsaw, alongside the European Commission, elements within the European Parliament, and the EU treaties, which explain the pro-corporate bias of too many EU laws and policies. Compelling examples of member states promoting corporate interests include how:

  • Member states and national corporate lobbies have developed a symbiotic relationship whereby the national corporate interest has – wholly wrongly – become synonymous with the national public interest as presented by the relevant government in EU fora. Extreme examples include the influence of the car industry on the German political establishment (and the negative impact of this on EU climate and emissions’ regulation); Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica, whose closeness to the Spanish Government ensured its demands were absorbed and promoted; the state-owned coal industry which leads the Polish Government to be such a climate pariah; and the City of London, which can count on the UK Government to back its demands for the lowest possible financial regulation.
  • Elite corporate lobbies target the European Council of member state leaders, with access that NGOs and trade unions cannot match. For example the regular meetings of the European Round Table of Industrialists bring together 50 bosses of major European multinational companies with the leaders of France, Germany, and the Commission President.
  • The lobby firepower of corporate interests massively outguns that of civil society, in terms of spending power, access to decision-makers, and influence, and that is reflected in the progress or outcomes of a wide-range of dossiers, from ePrivacy to the Financial Transactions Tax, from climate change to chemicals regulation.
  • At the EU level, member states have collectively absorbed some corporate agendas and adopted them as part of the EU-wide agenda, such as on economic governance (strict fiscal rules and austerity), the so-called ‘innovation principle’ (undermining precautionary approaches to regulation), and investors’ protection in trade treaties (allowing corporations to sue states for billions in compensation when governments act to protect their people and the planet).

This corporate influence, the way in which some member states have been captured by corporate interests, is masked by complex EU decision-making procedures, a lack of transparency, the exclusion of citizens in decision-making at national level on EU matters, and generally weak national parliamentary mechanisms. The result is an accountability and democratic deficit.

Contemporary nationalist rhetoric argues that a strong EU is imposing rules and regulations on nation states, and sometimes it suits member states to play up to this narrative and blame the EU for decisions which are unpopular at home. However, blaming the EU ‘apparatus’ alone is far too simplistic: after all, governments set the EU’s strategic direction, are closely involved in both the drafting and implementation of EU rules, and have final sign-off on all EU legislation.

This report alerts civil society and decision-makers to the threat that corporate lobbies, influencing member states, have on EU decision-making. To start to reverse this, action will be needed by governments, national and regional parliaments, and the EU institutions. In particular, we urgently need new models for citizens to both find out more about, and have a say on, the EU matters with which member states are tasked with deciding. Check out the ‘What you can do’ section of the report for immediate steps and tips on how to investigate the EU’s ‘Captured states’.

2019 will be a really significant year for the EU with European Parliamentary elections due in May and a new European Commission to be appointed in the autumn; domestic debates on the role of the EU will only intensify. What better time to start a debate on the role our governments play, in our name, at the EU level?

Read the summary or download the full report: https://corporateeurope.org/capturedstates

Activists take the stage at arms lobby event
06-12-2018 -

Today peace activists took action at an arms lobby event in Brussels, where politicians and the defence industry meet to discuss European defence policies. Two activists took the stage at the conference to warn the politicians for the dangers of the arms lobby. “It is unacceptable that the European defence policy is outsourced to the arms industry”, says one of the activists.

Today the European Defence Industry Summit takes place at the Cercle de Lorraine in Brussels, where arms lobbyists and EU policy makers will be present. Representatives from Raytheon, UTC and Collins Aerospace will speak at the event. “Raytheon produces the Saudi bombs which are dropped on Yemen causing a humanitarian catastrophe”, says Bram Vranken, one of the activists. “It is time the EU listens to its citizens, instead of outsourcing its defence policy to war criminals”.

“Arms industry hijacks EU defence policy”

The arms lobby has had a big influence on European policies. On the 10th of December the European Parliament will discuss the European Defence Fund, a 13 billion euro military research programme. Research shows that the arms industry was overrepresented in the decision making process setting up the European Defence fund. The fund is notorious for its lack of transparency. 'The decision making process was imbalanced, biased and opaque, creating at least a perception of a conflict of interests”, says Vranken.

The European Defence Fund is an important topic at the conference today, where a panel of arms companies and policy makers will discuss how to develop new weapon systems. “This is not a coincidence”, says Vranken. “These companies are very eager to attract European funding for their military research. This conference is the ideal opportunity to lobby for these funds.”

Protests against the European Defence Fund are growing. A petition against the fund has been signed by over a thousand scientists and researchers. Also civil society has been highly critical about the European military initiatives.

actievoerder wordt weggedragen door de politie aan de EDA conferentie
Protest at European Defence Agency conference
29-11-2018 -

Today the annual conference of the European Defence Agency takes place in Brussels. In front of the entrance dozens of worried citizens demonstrated against the militarisation of the European Union.

actievoerder wordt weggedragen door de politie aan de EDA conferentie

Today the annual conference of the European Defence Agency takes place in Brussels. In front of the entrance dozens of worried citizens demonstrated against the militarisation of the European Union. They were coarsely removed by the police and spent a couple of hours in custody. The peace organisation Vredesactie simultaneously filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman for imbalance, bias and lack of transparency.

The arms industry meets with European politicians today at the annual get-together of the European Defence Agency (EDA) “From Unmanned to Autonomous Systems: trends, challenges and opportunities”. Hundreds of arms dealers are invited to the conference, meanwhile critical voices are not welcome. Dozens of worried citizens protested today at the entrance of the conference. 'The arms industry is received with open arms today, while the doors remain closed to European citizens. Whose security are they talking about then?', one of the protesters asks.

Complaint European Ombudsman

'The annual conference of the European Defence Agency is the symbol the entanglement of the EU and the arms industry', says Bram Vranken from Vredesactie. 'This leads to skewed policies. With the European Defence Fund the EU is planning to spend at least 13 billion euros for military research and development. Something only the arms industry will benefit from.'

Research shows that the arms industry was overrepresented in the decision making process setting up the European Defence fund. The fund is also notorious for its lack of transparency. 'The decision making process was imbalanced, biased and opaque, creating at least a perception of a conflict of interests. For these reasons we filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman today', Vranken states.

Autonomous weapons

The absence of representatives of civil society or the academic world on the conference today is the more remarkable because of the widespread controversy around the subject: autonomous systems. Yesterday a group of 177 scientists from 17 European countries published an open letter protesting the European funds for military research and the focus on killer robots. The European Parliament, scientists, civil society organisations and a number of governments are advocating a United Nations ban of killer robots. The initiative in favour of a ban is being undermined by a number of countries that are increasingly funding the development of such weapons, including the European Union.

Presscontact

Bram Vranken bram@vredesactie.be

Pressdossier

http://www.istopthearmstrade.eu/sites/default/files/20181122_press_conflict_interest_EU_En.pdf

Pictures

https://www.flickr.com/photos/vredesactie

Video
https://youtu.be/GFh6OJZlYYA

 

Updates

https://www.facebook.com/Istopthearmstrade.eu/

https://twitter.com/Vredesactie

The risks of the new EU Defence Fund: civil society warns EU in open letter
15-11-2018 -

Our EU leaders are currently discussing the next EU budgetary cycle that will run from 2021 to 2027. Among the proposals, one has so far caught little attention from the public and has been barely analysed in the EU media, let alone at national level.

Yet the recently set-up European Defence Fund would deserve a wider and critical public debate, with its €13 billion draft budget for a new area of work, the Research & Development of new weapons and military technology. With this statement, the signing organisations intend to raise awareness among citizens and the press about this development, and alert them to the major risks the current proposal entails.

Our EU leaders are currently discussing the next EU budgetary cycle that will run from 2021 to 2027. Among the proposals, one has so far caught little attention from the public and has been barely analysed in the EU media, let alone at national level.

Yet the recently set-up European Defence Fund would deserve a wider and critical public debate, with its €13 billion draft budget for a new area of work, the Research & Development of new weapons and military technology. With this statement, the signing organisations intend to raise awareness among citizens and the press about this development, and alert them to the major risks the current proposal entails.

The risk of diverting human and financial resources from civilian priorities

If the Defence Fund proposal goes through, €13 billion (on average €1.85 billion per year) will have to be found in the next EU budgetary cycle (MFF 2021-2027) and will be lost for the civilian objectives of the EU. It is quite unlikely that Member States will be willing to increase their contributions to compensate both Brexit (an estimated net loss of €10 billion/year for the EU budget) and new areas of work. Cuts are already planned in the cohesion and agricultural funds, as well as in some external aid programmes.

In addition, a range of civilian programmes are now asked to include Defence sector needs in their priorities: this goes from structural and regional funds to transport programmes and even Erasmus +. There is also a high risk of diverting “human capital”: indeed a skilled work force, in engineering or technology, is already scarce; thus both the EU Institutions and the industry are likely to divert existing human resources from civilian programmes and priorities to military-related ones.

The risk of prioritising arms industry interests and undermining EU transparency rules

Like in other policy areas, corporate capture over EU military-related initiatives is staggering. The Group of Personalities (GoP), founded in 2015 as an advisory group, stands out as a bad practice. This Group was made up of 16 members, 9 of which were industry representatives. Many recommendations of this GoP turned into concrete provisions which make the Defence Fund look more like a subsidy to the industry than a policy-driven tool. And 6 out of those 9 corporate members of the GoP are now receiving EU funding under the first military projects of the Defence Fund.

In contrast, critical civil society is hardly listened to and a lack of transparency prevents it to play its watchdog role. Even the most basic information is withheld behind a veil of national security. Information about who are the experts advising the Commission or helping implement the funding is kept secret, and recommendations by the European Ombudsman on transparency are being ignored. Even more worrying is that this lack of transparency will be institutionalized in the Regulation for the Defence Fund 2021-2027, which plans to keep the consulted experts a secret in derogation of normal practices.

The risk of contributing to the development of “killer-robots” and disruptive technologies

The Defence Fund legislative texts remain vague regarding what type of weapon systems and military technology should be developed. In practice, the definition of priorities will stay in the hands of the Member States, and the European Parliament is not involved, in derogation of normal practices. However, information in the public domain shows that the focus for the first projects is on unmanned and autonomous systems.

In addition, Member States refused to exclude funding for the development of fully autonomous weapons in the 2019-2020 pilot phase of the Defence Fund, and the draft Regulation for 2021-2027 specifically mentions “disruptive technologies” as a focus, meaning weapons or technologies which “can radically change the concepts and conduct of” war, such as artificial intelligence.

Concretely this means that EU taxpayers money could pave the way for new controversial military technology such as ‘killer robots’, unless the Parliament takes a strong stand against this in the coming weeks.

The risk of exacerbating the global arms race, which in turn feeds conflicts

The EU collectively is the second largest supplier of weapons in the world after the US, and about a third of those exports go to the Middle East, as well as to other areas of conflicts or growing tensions. Those weapons risk or are actually contributing to civilian deaths and suffering, infrastructure destruction and the displacement of thousands of people.

Parallel to that, one of the expected outcomes of the European Defence Fund is to boost the global competitiveness of the military industry, including its capacity to export. Given that national markets are already too small to absorb European over-production and provide higher profitability, the arms industry will put an even greater emphasis on exports, including of the EU-funded new military technology as a crucial competitive edge.

This will inevitably contribute to the global arms race in a context of growing international tensions. In turn, this arms race exacerbates the risk of conflicts. Indeed, if weapons are not per se the cause of conflicts, their proliferation encourages both state and non-state actors to revert to armed force and violence in response to political or social crisis, rather than trying to achieve peaceful solutions.

To conclude, there could be potential benefits from the pooling together military research and development, such as savings from reducing duplication. However, the proposal as it currently stands clearly says it is not substituting EU for national funding and encourages EU Member States to continue increasing their own spending. And there are many other examples of contradictions between the stated objectives and the expected concrete results of the Defence Fund, under the current provisions.

In this remembrance period of the First World War, and of the terrible effects of what were disruptive technologies at that time, like chemical gas and tanks, we urge the media and EU decision-makers alike to ask whether the establishment of the European Defence Fund is a good way to achieve peace and security.

List of signatories:
Action On Armed Violence (AOAV), UK
Agir Pour la Paix, Belgium
Aktion Aufschrei, Germany
Attac Austria
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), UK
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), UK
Centre d'Estudis per a la Pau J.M. Delàs, Spain
Church and Peace, EU/Germany
Committee of 100, Finland
Corporate Europe Observatory, EU
CounterBalance, EU
the Corner House, UK
CorruptionWatch, UK
Debt Observatory in Globalisation (ODG), Spain
Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee (GsoA), CH
Human Rights Institute, Slovakia
International Alert
International Peace Bureau (IPB)
Movement for the Abolition of War, UK
NESEHNUTÍ , Czech Republic
Northern Friends Peace Board, UK
Norwegian Peace Association, Norway
Observatoire des Armements, France
Omega Research Foundation, UK
PAX, the Netherlands
Pax Christi Flanders, Belgium
Pax Christi UK
Pax Christi International
Rete Italiana per il Disarmo, Italy
Peace Union, Finland
StateWatch, EU
Stop Fuelling War, France
Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR), UK
StopWapenhandel, the Netherlands
Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), SW
Transnational Institute (TNI), the Netherlands
Uniting for Peace, UK
Un Ponte per..., Italy
Urgewald, Germany
VREDE, Belgium
Vredesactie, Belgium
WRI – War Resisters' International

Action alert - 29/11 conference of the European Defence Agency
25-10-2018 -

On 29 November, we will take nonviolent action at the conference of the European Defense Agency in Brussels. Arms dealers and policy makers meet behind closed doors and decide what the world of tomorrow will look like. Critical voices are not welcome. We invite ourselves and enter the conference to make our voice heard.

On 29 November, we will take nonviolent action at the conference of the European Defense Agency in Brussels. Arms dealers and policy makers meet behind closed doors and decide what the world of tomorrow will look like. Critical voices are not welcome.
We invite ourselves and enter the conference to make our voice heard.

Our politicians are outsourcing the security and migration policy to the arms industry. The results are appalling: the conference theme speaks for itself: 'From unmanned to autonomous systems: trends, challenges and opportunities'. In other words: how can we make killer robots and deploy them in wars?

We will not let that happen overnight. Our future is at stake. We are going to the conference to make the case for a safe and peaceful Europe on a human scale, for sustainable solutions and good governance.

Want to join or know more?
Send an email to ikstopwapenhandel@vredesactie.be and we'll send you more info soon.
 

Over 700 researchers call on colleagues to speak out against EU military research programme
27-06-2018 -

Today a coalition of science and peace organisations has launched the European initiative Researchers for Peace. Over 700 scientists and academics from 19 EU countries have signed an online statement which calls on the EU to stop funding military research. They invite their colleagues in the research community to add their support.

Today a coalition of science and peace organisations has launched the European initiative Researchers for Peace. Over 700 scientists and academics from 19 EU countries have signed an online statement which calls on the EU to stop funding military research. They invite their colleagues in the research community to add their support.

The EU is budgeting billions of euros for military research and the development of weapons. On Thursday 28th EU member states will meet in Brussels to discuss defence issues and migration. The European Defence Fund, which would pour 13 billion euros into military research and development, tops the agenda.

The 700 researchers warn of the consequences of an R&D programme for new arms technology. "The establishment of an EU military research programme points towards an unprecedented acceleration in the militarisation of the EU," says Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility. "Investing EU funds in military research will not only divert resources from more peaceful areas, but is also likely to fuel arms races, undermining security in Europe or elsewhere".

Making choices

The researchers fear that the military R&D programme will divert funding from other research areas. "Europe has a long tradition of scientific innovation and EU research programmes have shown to be a powerful policy tool. But Europe has to make choices on what kind of research to fund. Each euro can only be spent once," says Jordi Rufanges from the Spanish research institute Centre Delas. "The EU should continue to focus on investments in civilian research areas that improve our quality of life, helping to solve health and environmental problems, and contributing to stability and equality in society."

“Instead of providing funding for new military technologies, the EU should finance innovative research which helps to tackle the root causes of conflict and contributes to the peaceful resolution of conflict”, Rufanges continues.

Killer robots

The military technologies under development will shape the wars of the future. The European Union has already started developing autonomous systems under the ‘Preparatory Action on Defence Research’.

Despite warnings from both the scientific community and the European Parliament, the decisions to develop autonomous military systems have been taken without any public debate. The European Union risks exacerbating a global arms race in robotic weapons and drones. And what's more, there's a risk that this could lead to an increase in arms exports to repressive regimes and fuel conflict. Already EU-made weapons are facilitating violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in a number of conflict zones.

Dr Parkinson adds “These investments in military R&D will not increase peace and security. On the contrary, they will only worsen global tensions. In the meantime, scientific research which might actually contribute to preventing violent conflict is being neglected.”

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Researchers for Peace is a campaign run by the European Network Against Arms Trade, International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility, International Peace Bureau, Vredesactie (Belgium), Scientists for Global Responsibility (UK), Centre Delàs d'Estudis per la Pau (Spain), Rete Italiana per il Disarmo (Italy), and Science Citoyenne (France).

The sign-on statement for researchers – which calls on the European Union to stop funding military research – together with a current list of signatories can be viewed at: www.researchersforpeace.eu
We invite other researchers to add their name to the statement.

MR blood on your hands: Action in Brussels calling on Belgium to #StopArmingSaudi
08-05-2018 -

This morning in Brussels, a group of concerned citizens from the collective “Désarmez!" (Disarm!) covered the windows of political party Mouvement Réformateur (MR) in bloody handprints symbolising the blood spilt by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The action shone a spotlight on MR’s complicity in the war in Yemen by continuing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.

This morning in Brussels, a group of concerned citizens from the collective “Désarmez!" (Disarm!) covered the windows of political party Mouvement Réformateur (MR) in bloody handprints symbolising the blood spilt by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The action shone a spotlight on MR’s complicity in the war in Yemen by continuing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.
 
Yemen has been the victim of three-year Saudi-led war against the Houthis rebels. 10,000 dead, 3 million people displaced, a cholera epidemic, war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law: so many reasons yet apparently not enough for Belgium to stop arming Saudi Arabia. 
 
MR’s complicity
 
The Walloon government, of which M. Borsus (MR) is the Minister-President, continues to issue arms licenses to the Saudi government. This is proven by Belgian company FN Herstal being the world leader in the sale of small arms to Saudi Arabia; and Cockerill Maintenance & Engineering (CMI) which holds "the contract of the century" of 4 billion euros (for turrets of medium and large tanks with Canada, which will then be mounted on tanks and shipped to Saudi Arabia). 
 
A delegation of federal parliamentarians, composed of P. De Roover (N-VA) and S. Lahaye-Battheu (Open VLD) headed by A. Destexhe (MR), is currently on a planned "diplomatic" trip to Saudi Arabia.
 
European Defence Agency screened by EU Ombudsman after complaint Vredesactie
21-12-2017 -

Good news: the European Defence Agency (EDA) has been screened by the European Ombudsman after a complaint by Vredesactie. The EDA plays a key role in supporting the arms industry and the militarisation of the EU.

Good news: the European Defence Agency (EDA) has been screened by the European Ombudsman after a complaint by Vredesactie. The EDA plays a key role in supporting the arms industry and the militarisation of the EU.

A lobbyist from Airbus once said that the European Defence Agency has been modeled for 95 percent on the proposals of the arms company. Hence, it is not astonishing that the Agency plays an important role in the recent EU plans to subsidise the arms industry. The lobby report ‘Securing Profits’, published by Vredesactie in October, shows that the contacts between the EDA and the arms industry go far. In one instance the EDA called on the arms company Saab to lobby the European Parliament in favor of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR), a military research programme.

The nonviolent actions at the annual conference of the EDA also show the lack of democratic accountability of the agency. While in 2016 almost three hundred representatives of the arms industry were invited to attend the conference, critical voices were not welcome.

EDA evades democratic accountability

February 2017. The proposals of the EU to subsidise the arms industry through a military research programme take further shape. From anecdotal evidence it was already clear that the arms industry had a major influence on the policy proposals. There is however little information about exact meetings and the content of those meetings. Consequently Vredesactie requested all information regarding meetings between the arms industry and the EDA, based on the European law for access to documents (the question is online available here). The European institutions are obliged to provide a response. The EDA never responded to the request.

Consequently, Vredesactie filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman. And the European Parliament asked a critical question. With result. The European Defence Agency was screened by the European Ombudsman, up to the highest level. The CEO of the EDA Jorge Domecq and the vice-CEO Rini Goos received a visit from the Ombudsman after which Jorge Domecq expressed his regret that the request for access to documents “fell through the cracks”.

The Ombudsman report also states that “systemic issues have been uncovered during the inquiry”. The EDA does not have a system for recording correspondence exchanged via e-mail, which was a matter for each individual official. Even more striking, the IT service of the Agency had no trace of the request for access for documents from Vredesactie any more as the email had been deleted by the EDA.

The Ombudsman inquiry is not over yet. The European Ombudsman will now take further steps to solve the systemic issues uncovered.

Transparency is a condition for democratic control. The indifference of the EDA towards transparency and democratic accountability stands in stark contrast with the reception arms companies receive.

 

Peace activists warn of the dangers of the arms lobby
04-12-2017 -

Today peace activists take action at the European Defence Industry Summit, where arms lobbyists and policy makers are meeting to discuss the future of Europe’s defence.
Activists warn the attendees and policy makers of the danger of the arms lobby for peace and security. We refuse to outsource our security to the arms industry”, says one of the activists. “That will only lead to more arms exports, more violence, and more war”.

The arms industry has a tight grip on Europe. For the third time in only a couple of weeks, Vredesactie shows how the arms industry is lobbying the EU. Today peace activists take action at the European Defence Industry Summit, where arms lobbyists and policy makers are meeting to discuss the future of Europe’s defence. Activists warn the attendees and policy makers of the danger of the arms lobby for peace and security. We refuse to outsource our security to the arms industry”, says one of the activists. “That will only lead to more arms exports, more violence, and more war”.

“Warning! The arms lobby seriously harms you and others around you.”, says one of the activists to a passer-by at the entrance of the Egmont Palace, where a lobby-event is taking place organised by the arms industry. High-level European politician such as Federica Mogherini and the European Commissioner for internal markets Elzbieta Bieńkowska are attending the summit.

This lobby-event is only the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of meetings between the defence industry and the European Union. According to information obtained through a Freedom of Information request by Vredesactie, 37 meetings took place between the European Commission and the arms industry for the start of a European military research programme.

It is unacceptable that the European defence policy is outsourced to the arms industry”, says Hans Lammerant from the Belgian peace organisation Vredesactie. “The European Union should not answer to the arms industry, but should be accountable to us, European citizens.”

Powerful arms lobby

The arms lobby has an influential position within the European Union. In five years time, the combined lobbying budget of the top ten of the European arms companies has doubled, from 2.8 million euros to 5.6 million euros a year. Not without results.

The report Securing Profits, how the arms lobby is hijacking Europe’s defence policypublished last month by Vredesactie, shows how the decision making process for the European Defence Fund was heavily dominated by the arms industry. Some proposals made by the European Commission were almost literally copied from recommendations made by the arms lobby. Neither civil society nor the European Parliament were given any substantial input on these far-reaching decisions.

Earlier this month, European member states launched PESCO, Permanent Structured Cooperation. The 23 participating member states committed to spending more on defence and on the procurement of military equipment. Central to PESCO is the 40 billion European Defence Fund.

The European Defence Fund is a gift to the arms industry” says Lammerant. It will not lead to more security, because it is not meant to lead to more security. The fund is an industrial stimulus fund for the major European arms-multinationals.”

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