Government adopts SP proposal, bans investment in cluster munitions

19 January 2011

Government adopts SP proposal, bans investment in cluster munitions

The Senate yesterday ratified the international treaty against cluster munitions. At the same time the Netherlands Parliament’s upper house called on Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal and Defence Minister Hans Hillen to take more action against banks and investors which invest in firms which manufacture and distribute these horrific weapons.

To date the government had showed no inclination to carry out a similar instruction from Parliament’s lower house. After the (for the government) bruising confrontation in December over the imposition of VAT on theatre tickets, however, the cabinet appeared to have little stomach for a further clash with the Senate. The upshot is that from now onwards the two ministers involved in such matters will refer to the Senate’s desire to see the banning of investment in cluster munitions as ‘support for the government’s policy’.

Arjan VliegenthartSP Senator Arjan Vliegenthart was delighted by this reaction. “For years we’ve conducted actions, outside and inside Parliament, against these weapons, with our former MP Krista van Velzen taking the lead. I’m pleased that now all the other parties also say that we must put an end to these weapons. This shows once again that the Senate with its current composition can get the government moving.” With a nod to the impending elections, Vliegenthart promised that this would prove “a stimulus to bring this aspect into the limelight during the campaign.”

Yet both ministers initially opted for a flexible approach when it came to the transit of cluster munitions through Dutch territory. “If you ban these deadly weapons,” Vliegenthart insisted, “you shouldn’t be giving others a free hand to trade in them, and this was a principle that won broad support in the Senate. This goes for the Americans as well. Just like the Russians, they have to date refused to ratify this vitally important treaty. Although Rosenthal originally asserted that transit of cluster munitions by NATO allies must not be hindered, even where this was to states who are not NATO members, an almost unanimous Senate gradually persuaded him and his colleague Hans Hillen that such an attitude is much too passive and that really active intervention on the part of the Dutch government, including towards the Americans, is both possible and necessary. That was a further step in the right direction.”

Rosenthal praised the pioneering work of former Socialist Party MP Krista van Velzen. She was, not only on the national level but internationally, one of the pioneers of the demand to ban cluster munitions. Cluster munitions maim and kill very many children, often long after the bombs have been dropped. As well as praising Van Velzen’s efforts, the minister expressed the hope that other countries, including the Netherlands’ NATO ally the United States, would ratify the treaty. “This was for me a remarkable but pleasurable turn of events,” said Vliegenthart.

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