Letter: The Europeanisation of defence

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The Independent Online
Sir: As the rapporteur (draftsman) of the recent EC report on defence harmonisation, I am writing in response to Christopher Bellamy's article 'EC nations vote for controls on weapon exports' (19 September). The article was perhaps ambiguous as to whether Saferworld Foundation played a leading role in drafting the entire report adopted by the European Parliament on 17 September or, as was the case, one amendment to it. The full report also covers much wider issues than the code of conduct for weapons exports, important though that is. Its conclusions were threefold.

First, that Article 223 of the Treaty of Rome should be in the long term deleted, and in the short term much more narrowly interpreted to prevent member-state governments hindering the creation of an internal market in the defence sector; thereby hastening Europeanisation of the industry, the lengthening of production runs and the consequent alleviation of the imperative to export.

Second, the European Commission should institute, as a priority, an arms conversion programme to ensure that the human skills of the defence workers faced with redundancy throughout the Community would be transferred en bloc to the new hi-tech industry Europe must create to compete with Japan and the US.

Third, Europe should initiate a global debate on the need to reduce sharply arms exports to

the Third World. In the meantime, it should adopt its own code of conduct.

Other suggestions in the resolution adopted included financial and technical assistance to the former Soviet Union to help with its arms conversion programme, and the idea that the community should buy up redundant Soviet weaponry currently being sold for little more than scrap value to Third World countries - and I suspect former Yugoslavia - and destroy it, as a cheaper option than trying to assist and arbitrate should these same weapons be used in anger.

Over the past two years, a great many organisations helped to prepare the report, which was drafted by me and my own staff and those of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.

Yours sincerely,


MEP for Greater Manchester

East (Lab)

Mossley, Lancashire

22 September

The writer is leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party.