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While the people of Europe  struggle with the cost of living, the European Commission wants to use their tax money to finance the arms industry. 

This week, the European Business Summits and the Aerospace, Security and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) are convening the European Defence and Security Summit in Brussels. The seventh edition of the event gathers high-level EU officials and national government representatives to be lobbied by the arms industry. It’s an opportunity for weapons  lobbyists to push their agenda and shape EU defence policy: more weapons with more public money. Unfortunately, the EU is all too willing to listen, jumping at the chance to exploit the conflicts in Ukraine and Palestineto justify militarising the Union. 

Commenting on the conference, Left MEP Özlem Demirel (Die Linke, Germany) said: “It speaks volumes when, at the congress organised by arms dealers and arms lobbyists, the EU Commission puts on a show and discusses issues such as a European war economy. Thanks to this so-called ‘geopolitical Commission’ as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen herself calls it, Europe’s defence companies are having a permanent party. The dividends rise and the proletarians fall, as Rosa Luxemburg rightly said 100 years ago.”

Just over ten years ago, in 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. “The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe,” read the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s explanation at the time. But today’s European Union, which wants to increase investment in the arms industry, is dangerously deserting this peace-broker notion. The EU is, in fact, legally barred from using its budget to fund military activities. But in 2016, the then President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, found a workaround: defence became part of the EU’s industrial strategy. And this is how the European Defence Fund (EDF) was created in 2017 – four years before war in Ukraine prompted a raft of politicians to call for EU militarisation. Its role is to finance defence research and development. The fund has a budget of nearly €8bn for 2021-2027. 

NGOs have reported how ASD lobbying pushed for the EDF’s creation. The declared lobby spending from the defence industry in 2021 was €5.1mn, according to a study from the European Network against Arms Trade (ENAT).  In 2022, the lobbying budget of the 10 largest European arms companies was €4.7mn, Corporate Europe Observatory reports. 

The European Commission keeps treating the arms industry as a partner instead of recognising it for what it really is: a lucrative business trying to make a profit from war.

At the beginning of this year, the Commission announced the European Defence Investment Plan (EDIP) which is slated to take over from the Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP) and the European Defence Industry Reinforcement through common Procurement Act (EDIRPA). Von der Leyen, currently  running for a second term as president, has already advanced the idea of a new ‘Commissioner for Defence’. 

Arms companies do not stop at influencing the EU’s defence policy. They also increasingly lobby in other policy areas that are important to them, such as exemptions from environmental regulations, access to raw materials, and the militarisation of borders. 

The Left will continue to fight to protect policymaking from corporate greed. A militarised EU is against the founding Treaties of the EU. Weapons never bring peace.

 

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