GCOMS at the European Parliament
On December 2 and 3, members of GCOMS travelled to Brussels (Belgium) in order to participate in a workshop on EU defence and security policies and to meet with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as well as with representatives of other civil society organizations working there.
On December 2, Quique Sánchez, an officer of GCOMS, participated in a meeting organized by the Beegees group, which brings together on a regular basis pacifists working on arms trade related issues in Brussels. Issues discussed included the European Defence Fund, the Common Position on arms trade and the European Peace Facility. After that, Sánchez introduced the GCOMS campaign to the group in order to receive feedback from them and establish possible alliances.
On December 3, the workshop on defence and security “How to forge a peace and rights-based EU answer to security threats” took place at a conference room at the European Parliament. This event was organised by Centre Delàs of Peace Studies along with the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) and also counted with the participation of IPB’s vice-president and GCOMS coordinator Jordi Calvo. The workshop opened a space for debate regarding the current European policies and programmes that are leading to an increasing militarization and securitization, to a growing influence of the military industry, to higher military spending prospects and to human rights and international law vulnerations. The conference also presented the results of recent investigations carried out by Centre Delas d’Estudis per la Pau, in collaboration with other entities such as Escola de Cultura de Pau, the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia, the Transnational Institute, Stop Wapenhandel and the ENAAT network.
The workshop featured important experts from different civil society organisations and representatives of different political groups at the European parliament, contributing all of them different perspectives that highly enriched the debate. The conference was organized in three panels: first, arms exports by EU member states; second, the refugees and migrants issue and the progressive militarization of borders; lastly, a panel dedicated to the European Defence Fund and the increasing military spending at the European level linked to global dynamics.
After a short welcoming and introduction by Jordi Calvo, researcher at Centre Delàs, Vice-President of the IPB and coordinator of GCOMS, the first session “EU arms exports and their impact on conflicts” started with the intervention of the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Özlem Demirel, from Die Linke and the GUE/NGL parliamentary group, who focused on the insufficiencies and violations of arms trade regulation at both European and Member States level. She was then followed by another MEP, Hannah Neumann of Die Grunen and the parliamentarian group of the Greens (Greens/EFE), who highlighted these shortcomings in the control and monitoring of EU arms exports.
Finally, Jordi Calvo, emphasized in his presentation, that according to SIPRI data, more than half of the EU Member States’ arms exports end up in countries in conflict or tension.
In the second panel, addressing the topic “Migration policies and militarization of the management of EU borders”, Ainhoa Ruiz, researcher especialised in borders’ militarization, draw special attention to the increase in construction of walls by EU member states, as well as the role of Frontex in criminalizing migrants. The last speaker of this session was Catherine Woollard, Director of the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), who introduced the limitations of the asylum system as well as several alternatives to protect the rights of refugees.
The third panel was concerned with the question: “Is the EU still a peace-led project?” In this session Laetitia Sédou, of the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT), analyzed the consequences the European Defence Fund entails for the EU and Member States, including a pressumibly huge increase in military spending, as member states commit to purchase what the European military industry produces within this programme.
She was then followed by Quique Sánchez, officer of GCOMS, who talked about global military spending and the discourse behind it, arguing that old-fashion deterrence and agressive politics, militarization, war preparations and weapons stockpiling, altogether threaten our security instead of improving it. He then defended a demilitarization process that should go hand to hand with alternative policies based on a human security paradigm, international cooperation and nonviolence.
Lastly, Clémence Buchet-Couzy of the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), put an emphasis on the European policies that do work for peace and for conflict resolution, which comparatively are shockingly underfunded but should be setting the path for EU policies according to her.
Miguel Urbán, MEP from Unidas Podemos and the Parliamentary Group GUE/NGL, who together with his team had hosted the workshop at the EU Parliament, ended the conference with his closing remarks, paying special attention to the setbacks in terms of security and rights at the EU, as well as its poor commitment to defend human rights and promote peace, which altogether distance the union from its original peacebuilding mandate.
During both days, the representatives of GCOMS and Centre Delàs met with several MEPs and MEP assistants in order to further amplify their advocacy efforts and try and bring in a pacifist perspective into the European Parliament. Altogether, they managed to meet with almost all parliamentary groups, including the EPP, S&D, Renew, GUE/NGL and the Greens/EFA.