Don’t give EU aid money to arms companies

The EU commission has presented a 100 million EUR proposal, using for first time, the EU budget for strengthening the military in third countries. The idea is to help fund poorer countries’ military in the fields of training, mentoring and to provide infrastructural military services. This new EU policy is officially called “capacity building in support of security and development” (CBSD). The money will be channelled via the EU’s Instrument for Stability and Peace, a fund previously used only for civilian purposes.

This would be a game changer for the EU, since it would militarize the EU’s previously civilian budget, something unthinkable only a couple of years ago. In practice aid money could be given to European arms companies to develop new equipment and services, later to be sold to third countries – for example communication and radar technology. Other countries could likely follow. This could risk changing the interpretation of development aid worldwide, hollowing out development aid meant to reduce poverty and spur long-term economic development.

However, the proposal has caused a stir among the peace movement as well as with the development community, who fear that the money will be taken from aid project for poverty reduction and other long-term civilian purposes. More than 60 000 people have already signed an online petition against the CBSD initiative and member states like Sweden, Ireland and Luxembourg are questioning its legal and practical consequences.

The Greens have spearheaded the opposition against the CBSD initiative in the European Parliament and on a national level. While we underline the link between to development and security, we emphasize that one should not exclude the other – we have do to both. We cannot trade short-term security for long-term development. There is nothing wrong with capacity building in itself, but the money should not be taken out of the EU’s budget for development and given to the arms companies.

While the internationally accepted development aid criteria (DAC) allow some aid money to be used for receiving refugees etc., CBSD is different, both in terms of scale and content. The legal services from all three EU institutions have already declared that the CBSD initiative is not compatible with EU law. Diverting development funds into military capacity building could open the gates for anything to be called aid; leaving little if any money for real development and poverty reduction.

For the Greens, the long-term approach to politics is in our political DNA. It is what we were founded upon. However, we cannot fight this alone. As more people are discovering the CBSD initiative, we have a better chance of stopping it. It is common sense really: our aid money should never be going to the arms companies.

/Bodil Valero

Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Greens (Miljöpartiet de gröna)

Being a garbage police is not easy in Catalonia

I am the garbage police at home. Everything has to be separated based on what bin it goes into and I can even pick up what others throw in the wrong waste bin. It’s easy to be the garbage police where I live in Gävle with an advanced waste management system in every part of the municipality.

It’s so good that it has been awarded a lot of prices, both nationally and internationally, and the services of our municipal waste management system are asked for in other countries. During the years I’ve brought a lot of foreign visitors: El Salvador, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Mozambique, Canary Islands, Chile, Guatemala, Colombia, Rwanda, Catalonia etc. Most of them politicians. And all of them are impressed.

It’s not by chance we have this form of waste management. It was a clear political prioritization between having our municipal energy company build a waste incinerator, or developing a way for sustainable recycling. It took many years of political discussions before the waste separation was in place.

According to SDG #12 by 2030 we should substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. We are really on the right way in Gävle but it’s not enough. We can do even better. We’re generally good at recycling in Sweden compared to many other EU member states even though we are ruled by the same legislation.

I’m now spending my holiday in Catalonia but it’s impossible to recycle the same way I can do at home since the awereness of environmental issues amongst citizens is low. All kind of packaging is thrown in the same container and it’s normally just a mess where you will find anything from electro domestics to organic waste.

SDG #12 also state we should support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production. The issue about waste is a common challenge for all of us. For rich and poor countries. The more developed the more waste, but we handle it different based on awereness and political will. Thanks to political decision we normally don’t burn rubber wheels any longer in the EU as it is forbidden. Still we continue to live in societies with unsustainable consumption patterns generating much more consumer-products than we need and using much more natural resources than sustainable and necessary. People continue to think about waste as something just to throw away and not something that could be turned into a new product.

So how can we support developing countries when we don’t live up to our own legislation at home? The SDG:s are also about us. We should not forget that. In Europe we have to rethink and use existing legislation to diminish our waste and follow the waste hierarchy. It’s far too easy to break the rules without being sanctioned. We also need to develop the legislation further to collect all kind of materials as such. Why should we not recycle an old plastic chair when we recycle the plastic bottle. And we should support developing countries not only with technology but also with environmental legislation in combination with economic incentives to prevent, reduce, reuse and recycle. We can do that by sheding a light on good local examples. There is no one-size-fits-all. It depends on the size of the municipality, and what kind of industry, agriculture, etc. The Gävle model could suit a lot of municipalities but not all. One kind of good cooperation is that between municipalities but the resources are too limited to make any real change. I would like to see more of that in our cooperation policy.

/Bodil Valero 

Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Greens (Miljöpartiet de gröna)

Reducing inequality within and among countries

In 2010 the level of extreme poverty in the world had been cut in half compared to 1990. The fact that billions of people have been lifted out of extreme poverty is a huge success. Nevertheless 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty and the gaps between the rich and the poor of the world have never been larger.

Goal 10 of the SDG’s acknowledges the fact that inequality is not just a problem between countries but also within them. That’s a fact both in rich and poor countries. All governments have to deal with the exclusion and discrimination against vulnerable groups and make sure that wealth is shared and equal opportunities given to all without discrimination.

Discrimination is a violation of human rights and it hinders generations of people to have the same opportunities that others often take for granted. Equal access to education, inclusion in the political system, in the pension system, access to the labour market and an end to discriminatory laws are vital if we are to succeed in this. Today minorities in some countries even lack the basic right to clean drinking water or access to electricity.

The fight for equal rights and equality is far from over. We can see it in the brave wheelchair protests in Bolivia, we can see it in the fight for a decent pension system in many countries; we can see it in the continued fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide; we can see it in the still ongoing discriminatory treatment of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar; and we see it in practices of several EU member states’ against the Romani peoples of Europe.

Changing attitudes and patterns of discrimination is one part. But it also has to be followed by tougher measures, such as getting binding legal frameworks in place. In the European context with sanction mechanisms against EU states that violate human rights by for example discriminating minorities.

In 1952, when the foundation of the EU was laid through the European Coal and Steel Community, member states agreed to lay sanctions of those who violated the rules on goods and services. But more than 60 years later there still are no sanctions for violations on human rights.

All EU member states have signed and ratified the European convention on human rights. But even today, when blatant violations against human rights are happening in Spain, in Hungary, Poland, but also in Sweden with regards to minority rights, accountability is lacking.

Human rights are just that – human. They apply to all humans, regardless of where you were born, your language, culture, religion, gender or ethnicity. These rights cannot be negotiated.

Part of my work this legislative term is to try to achieve a binding legal framework on human rights within the EU, combined with sanctions against member states that violate them.

/Bodil Valero

Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Greens (Miljöpartiet de gröna)

 

 

A world where no one needs to flee but everyone has the right to move – My favorite idea of the Swedish Greens thoughts on migration

Who would expect a well-paid doctor from Bagdad to come to Sweden to live on welfare if he was not forced to do it? And who would expect a mother from Latin America to leave her kids to go to Spain to clean our houses if she was able to maintain herself at home? Most people want to live in their home countries if they’re not forced to leave because they fear for their lives or for economic reasons. It’s a little minority that leaves their homes voluntarily to study, work, build a family etc.

In the current situation where Europe sees migrants as a threat to our societies, be it people leaving war zones or economic migrants, the answer European leaders gives is to do their utmost to keep them all out. We close our borders, we destroy the smugglers’ boats, we mix military and civil operations to patrol our external borders, we make a dubious deal with the Turkish president Erdogan to send people back etc. The idea is of course to keep migrants out (and potential terrorists, even though they are mostly born here) and when migrants manage to reach us to send them back. Some so called “real refugees” from Syria will have the possibility to stay in Europe, if a country accept them, but most others will be sent back where they last came from.

Last year the Commission suddenly started to talk about addressing the root causes. I was thrilled to hear that, but I soon got disappointed when I realized that they were only talking about the bad conditions in the Turkish refugee camps that made great amount of people leave Turkey. That is not a root cause. The root cause is the war in Syria and we cannot expect that Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan should cope alone with millions of refugees while some European countries are doing very little or nothing. We have to share the responsibility in solidarity.

As Greens we have always claimed that we need to address the root causes to conflict, oppression, poverty, climate change, bad governance and lack of respect for human rights. It’s the only way to stop the non-voluntary migration at the same time as it would make it easier to open up easier legal ways for the voluntary one.

There is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. We urgently need an inclusive political dialog led by the UN that puts peoples’ security in the forefront. We need lasting peace with respect for all different groups in the country. Goal 16 (peace and justice) in the Sustainable Development Goals could provide a lasting framework for finding solutions and addressing the real root causes of the migration in the eastern Mediterranean.

/ Bodil Valero 

Member of European Parliament, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance; Member; Sweden Miljöpartiet de gröna;