As journalists at the international press agency Pressenza and activists of the Humanist association “World without Wars and Violence”, we intend to make a contribution to the debate in DiEM25 and the development of an innovative and courageous platform for the 2018 European elections.
The European New Deal launched by DiEM25 puts forth interesting measures aimed at fighting increasing poverty levels caused by austerity, overly powerful banks and nominated technocrats, who answer to no one but themselves for their decisions. However, a program of this sort is difficult to put into practice without cutting the massive funds currently spent on military build-up and touching the out-sized power of the arms industry.
Reducing military spending and placing an embargo on arms sales would free up immense resources, as well as constitute an ethical choice of peace over war. These measures would be an essential contribution to defusing armed conflicts that provoke colossal humanitarian tragedies and create millions of refugees worldwide. Most of these wars are indeed fought using arms supplied by Western countries!
In addition, we cannot ignore the fact that the terrible terrorist attacks that took so many lives in Paris, Nice, Berlin, Brussels, Stockholm, Manchester and London are, in part, a monstrous response to wars the West has waged for profit and raw materials, thus feeding into an infinite spiral of hate, violence and revenge.
Military spending is not front page news, but enormous figures are involved. According to data gathered by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), the most authoritative research institute in this field, military spending by European Union countries in 2016 totaled 225 billion euros, that is to say 1.54% of the aggregate GDP. NATO member European countries spent 215 billion euros, or 1.47% of their GDP. If these countries followed the US exhortation to contribute more to the NATO budget, reaching 2% of each country’s GDP, the total would be 295 billion euros annually, or 37% more than today.
In Europe, only four countries – Estonia, Greece, Poland and the UK – currently reach or surpass 2% of their GDP on military spending. As an example, paying 2% for Italy would mean 20 billion euros more, for Germany 30 billion more and for Spain 16 billion more. These figures are even more meaningful if we think about the devastating consequences austerity policies have had, and continue to have, on countries like Greece, Italy and Spain.
Given the recent submissive reactions by European countries to Trump’s requests at the NATO summit in Brussels, these spending increases appear nearly certain. Conclusion: funds for pensions, healthcare, education and research get cut, but money is always available for arms!
Another important topic that should be included in the DIEM25 program is disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, and closing down American military bases with atomic weapons. According to various experts, such as Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, the NATO doctrine of “Nuclear Sharing” in Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Turkey means that there are 180 US B61 bombs (2014 estimate). These five countries are signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus are in violation of Article 2 (each of the non-nuclear countries that have signed the Treaty commit to not hosting nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or have any direct or indirect control over any such weapons or explosive devices…). In addition, France possesses approximately 300 atomic warheads and the UK 225.
In this decidedly grim landscape, good news comes from on-going negotiations at the United Nations around a treaty to ban nuclear arms. It is promoted by 123 countries, which are mostly from Africa, Asia and South America. The next session of negotiations will take place from June 15 to July 7. These negotiations have been completely boycotted by the nuclear powers and their allies, and take place in complete media silence. Very few European countries support the treaty (Austria, Cyprus, the Holy See, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Malta, San Marino and Sweden) and they deserve all the support of both civil society and political movements that care about the future of humanity. A future scenario which is truly forward-looking depends largely on eliminating these illegal and inhuman timebombs, the last arms of mass destruction that still exist.
In summary, talking about European social policies requires clear and strong proposals in the direction of the reduction of military spending and disarmament.
Translation from Italian by Peter Luntz