Activists protest presence of war criminals at European conference

Today, arms industry representatives and European policy makers are meeting at the European Defence Agency’s annual conference: Taking European Defence Cooperation to the Next Level. A Freedom of Information request filed by the Belgian NGO Vredesactie shows that more than 230 arms company representatives received an invitation to the conference. A dozen NGOs and peace organisations were not welcome to the conference due to “space constraints”, according to an email from the European Defence Agency.

Last night, hundreds of posters appeared throughout the European quarter in Brussels protesting the arms industry and its CEOs’ complicity in arming dictatorial regimes and in the militarisation of European borders. Airbus, BAE Systems, MBDA, FN Herstal and Leonardo were some of the companies that were targeted by the action.

European weapons are being found all over the world in conflict zones and in the hands of dictators, despite EU rules prohibiting such transfers. Numbers published last week by the EU show that member states granted licenses for 12.6 billion euros’ worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, a country that according to the United Nations is violating human rights and international humanitarian law.

The EU rolls out the red carpet for companies involved in human rights violations and war crimes. These companies don’t belong at a European conference, and instead should be held accountable in a court of justice.

EU blind to arms industry’s irresponsible conduct due to lobbying

According to EU numbers, the ten biggest arms companies and their lobbying organisations had a total of 348 high-level meetings with Commissioners. They also employed a total of 48 accredited lobbyists.

The arms industry has a small army of lobbyists at its disposal and that is not without consequences. The EU has for the first time in its existence started a military research fund of 13 billion euros - the so called European Defence Fund. EU numbers show that the seven companies heavily involved in the set-up of the programme as members of the Group of Personalities, have already received 40 per cent of funding.

In a conversation with Vredesactie, representatives of the European Commission said that there wouldn’t be any ethical screenings on the first half billion euros worth of projects that will start early next year. This lack of ethical considerations is horrific. The interests of the arms industry are not those of peace and stability, but rather of growth and profit. If the EU really wants to improve our security, it is time to stop arms exports to dictatorial regimes and to countries at war.