Abolition 2000 is a worldwide network working for a global treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Summary of the workshop held as part of the Conference for European Network for Peace and Human Rights, European Parliament, Brussels, October 20th – 21st.
Full report here


The workshop began with a summary of the situation of nuclear weapons in Europe.

Regina Hagen (INESAP, Germany) gave an overview of the political context. She reminded us that we are facing an era of nuclear proliferation, and although the mainstream media pays some attention to the so-called “rogue states”, all of the official nuclear weapon states are in the process of upgrading their nuclear weapon arsenals. At the same time there is in general a rather low level of public activity and awareness on the issue of nuclear disarmament. The recent NPT review conference was also a failure, and the conference on disarmament in Geneva remains blocked.

Bart Libaut (Greenpeace Belgium) gave an overview of the nuclear weapon stockpiles in Western Europe, which includes the “independent” nuclear forces of France and the UK, and up to 480 US nuclear weapons based in Europe under NATO nuclear sharing agreements in the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy (2 bases), Germany (2 bases) and Turkey. There are also large numbers of Russian nuclear weapons based in Europe.

Rae Street (CND, Britain) explained the importance of focussing on NATO, as an institution that attempts to portray itself as an alliance for peace, but in reality remains a nuclear-armed alliance. The alliance binds many European countries into closer links with US foreign policy than many citizens would wish. Governments often give the excuse of NATO commitments when confronted with opposition to nuclear weapon policy.

Armin Tenner (INES, Netherlands) and Tony Simpson (Russell Foundation, Britain) launched a proposal for a process leading to a European nuclear weapon free zone. They proposed working with a range of social and political groups to build broad support for nuclear disarmament in Europe. The initiative would be based around a statement that would be open for a large number of groups and individuals to sign, calling for a nuclear weapon free zone in Europe, and calling for people to come together to discuss the idea in a large conference or a series of conferences. The idea is inspired by the European Nuclear Disarmament process in the 1980s.

We heard several proposals for different models of action, and stories from campaigns.

Pol D’Huyvetter (For Mother Earth, Belgium) discussed several citizens’ initiatives that have been successful in raising the issue of nuclear disarmament on the public and political agenda, and created the context in which both houses of the Belgian parliament have passed resolutions calling for nuclear disarmament. The campaigns mentioned included the Mayors for Peace campaign, which has gathered almost half of all Belgian mayors to sign a statement against nuclear weapons; citizen inspections which have been a powerful way of using nonviolent direct action to confront the hypocrisy and secrecy around nuclear weapons based in Europe; peace walks have also been used to gather media attention, and to inspire people to take action. A consumer boycott of nuclear weapon states, especially the US, was also suggested as a way of applying direct economic pressure, and involving people.

Theresa Wolfwood (Barnard Boeker Centre Foundation, Canada) described the situation in Canada, where the campaign against the war in Iraq has not always been translated into deeper campaigns against militarism and the involvement of Canada in giving military support to the US. She made a call for the anti-nuclear movement to pay attention to bringing a deeper understanding of the links between these issues.

George Fairbrother (World Court Project UK) described how Peacerights, a group bringing together lawyers and activists in Britain, has organised a legal enquiry into the replacement of the British Trident nuclear weapon system. Although the results of the enquiry were not legally binding, they were authoritative. They revealed the need for more openness and accountability around the decision to replace Trident.

Julia Kramer (Pressehütte Mutlangen, Germany) presented inspiring stories from several youth initiatives that have taken place over the past year. Students from Heidelberg University have built a wall from small bricks to show support international law. Young people have been involved in lobbying decision makers at national and international levels, including large youth delegations from several countries at the NPT Review Conference in New York in May. Two projects (Nuclear Weapons Inheritance Project of IPPNW, and another project by Peace Boat, Japan) are linking young people in nuclear weapon states. Young people have also been involved in nonviolent direct action at nuclear bases around Europe.

Several concrete proposals were formulated during the workshop. These were discussed on the second session (Friday morning).

European focus for campaign on the UK
There are many examples of cooperation between campaigns in Europe, and some campaigns that could benefit from international support. However, it was felt that sharing expertise between groups and campaigns was more important than picking a single focus for the whole of Europe.

Bringing forward the Hibakusha (from all parts of the nuclear chain)
There was a general agreement that we need to honour the experiences of victims of all parts of the nuclear chain. These would include victims of nuclear tests, uranium mining, workers in the nuclear industry as well as victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Citizens weapons inspections across Europe
There is a need to develop a dynamic around the use of civil disobedience in anti-nuclear campaigns in Europe. This could be a “tour” or a focus on a single action. This would raise the visibility of campaigns across Europe, using just a few people to bring issues to the forefront.

Anti-bases day
There is a global network against US bases, and there are very active groups in many European countries. There are proposals for a day of action, but it has been difficult to reach consensus on a single date.

Launch of European appeal
There was some support for the idea of launching an appeal, although there is a danger of a “proliferation of conferences and appeals”. It should be linked to other initiatives such as Mayors for Peace, and the European Social Forum.

Mayors for Peace
The aim is to have 2020 mayors as members of the network by August 2006. The campaign is a good way to draw mayors into concrete disarmament work. Offering materials to mayors to use in their local communities will help, but this may depend on having groups in the local area.

Boycott
A boycott of arms companies that are involved in nuclear weapon industry could bring new allies. Shareholder actions may be another possibility.

Tribunal
The proposal to have an inquiry into one or more nuclear weapon systems, focussing on legal as well as historical, medical, moral, aspects was warmly received. The inquiry could include testimony from victims of the nuclear chain. A working group will be set up to take this forward.

A common idea that runs through many of the proposals is the need to make links outside of our own networks (with the anti-globalisation movement, social forums, local authorities, environmental activists, mayors, parts of Europe that don’t have nuclear weapons), and to build broad social support for the issue of nuclear disarmament. This would include a strong educational element, and attention to the victims of the whole of the nuclear chain from uranium mining, processing, and testing, to use of nuclear weapons.

There is also a need to share ideas for specific action models (inspections or other anti-bases actions, Mayors for Peace, boycotts, shareholder actions). This could be through exchange of activists, but also an important part of this is sharing expertise and ensuring that campaigns in other countries are used to boost campaigns at home. One model that can possibly be used by everyone is the Mayors for Peace.

We searched for a common date for action, and a proposal is the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg judgement, on 1st October 2006.