|REPORT ON GN REPS MEETING AT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT IN BRUSSELS
June 8th 2000
by DAVID WEBB & REGINA HAGEN
Regina Hagen and Caroline Lucas MEP
|Regina Hagen (GN board member from Darmstadt, Germany) and Dave Webb (GN Treasurer from Leeds) met up at the parliament buildings in Rues
Wiertz in Brussels. Dave had traveled from Leeds that morning and Regina had caught the train from
Darmstadt. We didn't quite know what to expect and the details of how long
we would have to talk kept changing - eventually it turned out that we would
have about 1 hour to spend on BMD (40-45 minutes of talk and then questions).
The meeting was of the Peace Intergroup - an informal group who meet regularly to discuss and debate peace and related issues.
We had been told that about 20-30 people would attend and discovered rather late that there would not be overhead projectors available but that we could provide copies of documents to distribute. Dave was not able to get any copying done but Rachel from Yorkshire CND thoughtfully prepared copies of a 2 page statement and Regina did a great job and brought loads of copies of various documents including a briefing that she had put together and a number of copies of "Pushing the Limits".
We met with Dr Caroline Lucas - Green MEP for London area - who's office had helped set up the meeting. She was extremely supportive and deeply concerned about the issue.
The meeting was attended by about 25-30 people - MEPs, assistants, advisors, etc. It is usually chaired by Luisa Morganitini from Italy but today Caroline Lucas chaired as Ms Morganitini was to be involved in the first presentation and then had to leave early.
There were two issues to be covered. The first hour was given to a report by 2 MEPs (Bashir Khanbhai from the UK and Luis Morganitini from Italy) about their recent trip (with Niall Andrews from Ireland) to Iraq to investigate the effects of sanctions. Regina and I have copies of his report if anyone would like one. Basically Mr Khanbhai gave a sincere and passionate speech on the outrageous effects that the sanctions have had on a once healthy and proud culture. This was a welcome appraisal from a British Conservative Member of the EP and it was interesting how he and Ms Morganitini (who was from the other end of the political spectrum) agreed and worked together well to put the case for ending this terrible and murderous embargo.
Then it was our turn and Regina opened with an excellent background briefing of the issue. We weren't sure at what level to pitch the presentation and were told that there would be some people who knew only what they might have read in the papers and others who would be experts on the matter. In the end this turned out to be about right. After Regina had described the major points about what BMD was, how it was to operate, the timescales for the decision to deploy, the ABM treaty and the politically destabilising nature of the whole business - she put forward a number of suggestions for alternatives to following the BMD route which would seek security through international agreements on the reduction of nuclear arms and materials transfer rather than the unlikely success of an expensive technical fix that wouldn't work anyway.
I then gave an outline of the UK involvement through Menwith Hill and Fylingdales and also the involvement of the early warning radar at Thule (in Greenland - not part of the EC but associated through Denmark) and of the recent radar upgrade at Valdo in Norway (also not part of the EC - but close!). I also tried to emphasize the importance of strengthening the Outer Space Treaty and the role of Europe vs UK vs US in these issues. Putin has said that Europe is key to this issue - a united Europe could apply significant pressure on the US to halt their progress NMD - however, there are signs that major European politicians are moving towards being included in the 'nuclear shield' rather than abandoning it! We still have a lot to do!
Regina suggested a number of alternative strategies to avoid BMD. She took up a suggestion discussed in the ABM forum at the NPT Review Conference in N.Y. recently. Here Juergen Scheffran talked about an idea that evolved five years ago - to first put a freeze on all ballistic missile tests (when you can't test, you can't be sure the development of ballistic missiles are successfull) - thus preventing new countries (like North Korea from checking of any development they might do.
The next step would be a ban on ballistic missiles and a Ballistic Missile Convention. There is a book and a few articles from five years back which are available. One (Indian?) scientist from INESAP is, to my knowledge, currently working on a new paper about this suggestion. This is a great idea and two articles on it were included in the papers left for the MEPs.
To finish Dave presented a copy of the Yorkshire CND sign-on letter - calling for Europe to work to keep space for peace - for the chair to present to the European Parliament.
We had some interesting questions at the end - one of which allowed us to say a bit more about the Global Network and the number of campaigning groups working on this issue in the US and around the world.
There were a number of people present who knew quite a bit about the issues and a discussion with some of them (in particular Caroline Lucas and Ernst Guelcher of the Green/EFA Group) at the end of the meeting developed into a decision to take the matter forward by organising a formal motion to be put to the European Parliament - demanding that Europe plays no part in NMD or BMD.
Also after the meeting Caroline Lucas signed up as a new member of the Global Network - so now we have 1 Congressman and 1 Euro MP as affiliates!
Altogether quite a successful meeting - and hopefully we can help push this issue as far as possible through the European Parliament.
All the material that Regina brought went and thanks to Rachel Julian at Yorkshire CND who made the initial contact with Caroline Lucas's office and set the meeting up.