Europe-wide protests against nuclear NATO

IssueDecember 2006 - January 2007
News by Nik Gorecki

Campaigners in more than 50 cities across Europe have taken part in a month-long action protesting against the nuclear capacity of NATO member states. Concerned citizens have been filing official complaints with relevant authorities on the grounds that NATO's nuclear capacity is contrary to international humanitarian law, as the weapons' indiscriminate nature is certain to cause unnecessary suffering.

The series of complaints, organised by Greenpeace and the Belgium peace organisation Vredesactie, culminated in the notification of a citizens' summons to NATO secretary-general De Hoop-Scheffer, to coincide with the Riga Summit being held to discuss the future of the Alliance. The summons calls on NATO to change its nuclear policy and start the dismantling of the nuclear weapons still deployed by European NATO members. NATO's condemnation of North Korea's nuclear test as “an extremely serious threat to peace and security in the world” is held by campaigners to be hypocritical when European countries continue to hold their own nuclear weapons, and also house some of the US's nuclear capacity. “NATO should put its own nuclear house in order and eliminate its own extremely serious threat to peace and security,” said Bombspotting campaigner Fabien Rondal. Wendel Trio of Greenpeace added “This is an opportunity for European leaders to meet their own obligation to disarm the world of nuclear weapons and to do what the majority of people in Europe want by removing US nuclear weapons from European soil.”

Synchronised action

The campaign very successfully managed to coordinate and synchronise activity between a myriad of European peace campaigners, represented by a variety of different groups, and based in over 50 European cities. In police stations across Spain, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Portugal, countless official complaints were made. Many groups also carried out street demonstrations.

In Belgium, hundreds of citizens collectively sent a bailiff with a citizen's summons to prime minister Verhofstadt. In earlier complaint actions in Belgium, in 2002 and 2004, more than a thousand complaints were filed.

Amongst the many British actions, Norwich witnessed more than 30 people, representing a range of local groups, demonstrating in front of the police station and holding colourful banners while the letter of complaint was officially filed.

NATO, currently leading some 32,000 troops from 37 countries in Afghanistan, is at a transitional point in its history. Holding NATO to account by existing humanitarian laws becomes a vital exercise as NATO works to redefine its post-cold war role. Campaigners argue that it is of vital importance that, in future, NATO is free of nuclear weapons.