Belgium: activists blockade European Defence Agency conference

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Sarah Robinson

In early November over a hundred activists from several European countries blockaded the entrances at the annual conference of the European Defence Agency in Brussels where arms manufacturers were meeting European policy makers behind closed doors.

The conference was invite-only but the activists turned up without an invitation to let the arms dealers know that they were not welcome.

The arms industry was in Brussels to lobby for European Union (EU) subsidies and to attempt to exercise its influence over an increasingly militarised EU. Until now the EU has shied away from articulating a common European military policy but at the end of October, for the first time, and as a result of intensive lobbying by weapons manufacturers, funding was agreed for arms industry research and development likely to be worth around €90 million over three years (see the article “ENAAT campaign against EU subsidies for the arms industry” in this edition of War Profiteers’ News for more on this).

Belgian peace campaign organisations (and War Resisters’ International sections) Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix coordinated an action which succeeded in causing major disruption to the conference being held at the European Commission in the centre of the city. From early in the morning, activists locked-on at strategic points outside the building and were joined by others linking arms and holding banners to prevent arms dealers and military and political delegates from entering inside. The protest was made very visible with those who did make it inside being greeted with fake blood spilling from the red carpet, a die-in and ‘I stop the arms trade.eu’ ribbons sealing off the wider area. EU funding and courting of the arms industry were loudly rejected in favour of resources being used to promote social well-being and peaceful solutions to conflict. Bram Vranken of Vredesactie told this network that “this action was more than effective... the activists blocked the arms dealers' path. Arms lobbyists literally had to wriggle their way through. This is an important message to the European Union to drastically change course”.

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