Council of Europe expresses concern over US rocket shield

12 September 2007

Council of Europe expresses concern over US rocket shield

Following a proposal from SP Senator Tiny Kox, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will hold an emergency debate on 4th October on the political consequences of President Bush's plan to erect a 'rocket shield' in eastern Europe as a defence against 'rogue states' such as Iran and North Korea.

Tiny KoxAt a meeting in Rome this week of the chairs of the different political groups in PACE, Senator Kox's proposal won broad support. According to Kox - who chairs the United Left Group in the Assembly - the plan threatens, after two decades of military détente in Europe, to give rise to a new political situation characterised by a military partition and a renewed arms race. In reaction to Bush's plans, Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to station new rockets in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad to the west of the Baltic states, on the Polish border. International arms treaties are also menaced by the move.

According to the Americans, a special radar facility in the Czech Republic and the rocket defence system in Poland form the first line of defence against attacks by 'rogue states' such as Iran or North Korea. The plan must be in place by 2011 and preparations must therefore, Bush has said, begin in the very near future. The US government is seeking to conclude bilateral treaties to this effect with the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic. This is provoking tremendous disquiet amongst the population in eastern Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic, where there seems to be developing a clash between the government, which is keen to go along with the Americans, and the people, the majority of whom are opposed. In other countries too the American plans have been met with scepticism. Austria, France, Germany, Norway, Greece, Belgium and Luxembourg have all shown evidence of reticence regarding the bilateral initiatives proposed by the United States. The Dutch government also seems to lack enthusiasm.

According to Senator Kox, Europe's biggest and oldest treaty-based organisation, the Council of Europe, in which all European countries participate, has the duty to look into the political implications of the current escalation and how this escalation could be resisted. The prevention of a new division of the continent is seen as one of the Council of Europe's central tasks, and this is precisely what is now threatened. His views won support from the other political groups and a number of national delegations, including those of Russia and Turkey. Kox hopes for a strongly-worded resolution from the Assembly in October and for the support of the Netherlands delegation, which is made up of members of both houses of the national parliament from the Christian Democratic CDA, the Labour Party (PvdA), the SP and the centre-right VVD.

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