Report about activities of NeMA at the 2nd German Social Forum 2007 in Cottbus

The 2nd Social forum in Germany was held in the city of Cottbus, which is located in the eastern part of Germany near Poland. The German network against military bases organized three events and an information desktop in the Social forum.

1. Workshop:
"Military bases in Europe - bases for war and intervention"

2. Workshop:
"European front cities and the resistance against military bases"

3. Workshop:
"The US-led wars from German soil -- a Challenge for the German Peace Movement"

The participants of the network meeting (2nd Workshop) decided to have cooperation. They made the proposal to create a European-wide schedule (including 2008), for making the planning and the cooperation easier.

If you will have activities, conferences, meetings or campaigns, please send this information up to the next year to
Next dates,

1. Workshop "Military bases in Europe - bases for war and intervention".

(Reported by Hannelore Tölke)
Hans von Sponeck, former UN coordinator in Iraq,
Tobias Pflüger, Member of the European Parliament
Andrea Licata, former Director of the Center for the Study and Research of Peace at the University of Trieste

Hans von Sponeck, who was 1998-2000 UN-Coordinator in Iraq and retired with protest against the US embargo policy in Iraq, stated an ongoing polarisation in the world. The US is running a network of round about 1000 US military bases worldwide. He made an appeal to peace-activists not to allow military bases and asked them to put pressure on the government and to have protest at the base together with the residents there. The protest should become more and more professional and visible. For this meetings and conferences for exchanging of experiences and discussing strategies should be organized.

Tobias Pflüger, Member of European Parliament pointed out, while the US is operating a worldwide network of military bases the European Union is establishing also a network of military bases. Tobias Pflüger proposed to create a map for all military facilities in Germany and their usage. Military bases are the basis for warfare. The Missile Defence System, which is planned to construct in Czech Republic and Poland is an offensive war system, which will enable the USA to first strike, he explained.

Andrea Licata, who has been the Director of the Center for the Study and Research of Peace at the University of Trieste and works with groups in Vicenza and Aviano edited the publication "From Military to Civilian: the Pre-emptive Conversion of the United States Air Force base at Aviano - Research and Project". He pointed out, that military bases are an important part of militarization. In the last years more than 8000 military facilities were closed, but these shut downs are part of the realignment of US Bases and not part of a conversion. In the other hand successful conversions and a civil use of military facilities will support the development of the whole region. In studies was found out that by a civilian transformation (conversion) 4,000 new jobs could be created in the region.

2. Workshop "European front cities and the resistance against military bases" - Reports and exchange of experience with activists from the Czech republic, Poland, Italy and Germany

(Reported by Ingo Klein)
Maciej Konieczny (ATTAC PL & Young Socialists Association)
and further concerned people from Poland,
Petr Glivický Czech (NE ZÁKLADNÁM),
Andrea Licata (Vicenza/Aviano, Italy),
Roland Brinckmann (Freie Heide/Bombodrom),
representatives from Ansbach, "Offene Heide", "Flughafen natofrei!" (Leipzig)
and representatives of the public and the parties

Activists from Poland, the Czech republic, Italy and Germany reported on their actions. During the introduction Hans-Peter Richter (German peace council) reported on the first world conference against military bases in Ecuador, a conference of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in London and the meeting of the European groups of the World Peace Council in Portugal, where the military bases were also in the center of the interest.

Roland Brinckmann ("Freie Heide/Bombodrom" /Deutschland) reported on the activities against a bomb release exercise area 80 km north of Berlin called Bombodrom. Because of the resistance and many legal proceedings the initiative could prevent the use of the area now for 15 years, the fight still continues. The German Airforce did not give up. But if really the bombardment exercises should run, many organizations will occupy the area and will prevent bombardment.

Andrea Licata (Italy) reported about US military base in Vicenza. Vicenza is in the northeast of Italy and a rich and beautiful city and recognized of the UNESCO as world cultural heritage.
Nearby Vicenza is appropriate for US Air Force base Aviano, that in the war against Yugoslavia was used and now against Afghanistan and the Iraq. When the USA decided to extend the Air Force base the citizens became furious and organized a large demonstration. The successful mobilization was possible because of the intensive information work of the citizens' initiative. One year before only 600 participants had come to the demonstration, this time however 200.000. It is important to show alternatives. In one of their studies they prove that by the civilian transformation (conversion) 4,000 new jobs could be created.

Maciej Konieczny (Coordinator - Young Socialists Association) from Poland reported that no Polish party (only an right wing party) is against the new military base, but 70 % of the population. Also this problem takes the place 10 only for the most important problems. In the places around the new military base the USA make many promises for the people (new flats etc.). The Polish movement tries to reach a referendum.

The situation in the Czech republic is much better than in Poland, reported by Petr Glivický (NE ZÁKLADNÁM). In the parliament half of the delegates are against the new radar system. Further more the movement is very active. At the same time as the German Social Forum in Cottbus there are a meeting against the US plans in Breznice. 120 delegated from 16 European countries participated, 86 mayors and activists of international organizations.

After ending this workshop a delegation was going from directly to Czech in order to show our solidarity with the places concerned by the plans of a US anti-missile defense system.
Meeting in Breznice & Pictures

A further report from Germany came from Leipzig (Ingo Klein). There is a group of 8 to 10 people against the military use of the airport active since 2006. Leipzig became a large trans-shipment centre for Germany Army, NATO and the USA. There are 6 enormous transport aircrafts (Antonov) are stationed now, which bring large military equipment into all world. In addition there makes daily up to 3000 American GIs intermediate stop on the flights USA <-> Afghanistan or Iraq. Furthermore it is planned to enlarge the airport for military purposes.
Activists from Leipzig created the initiative "Flughafen NATOFREI!" (airport without nato). They organize public reminding guards, demonstrations, transparency actions, peace prayers in the town church, questions to parliaments and now an touring exhibition about (which was also presented on the social forum).

Also representatives from Ansbach and the "Offene Heide" have one's say.

We heard many details of the practical work in Poland, Czech republic, Italy and, which decided develop also connections among themselves and also to the world network. The problem awareness because of the military bases grows world-wide. All participants in Cottbus decided to work together.

We want to organize a European-wide schedule (including 2008), so that it become better and easier to plan to co-operate and to aid one another. Please send us your most important dates up to the next year. To:

Next dates,

3. Workshop "US led wars from German territory - a challenge for the German peace movement"

(Reported by Hans-Peter Richter)
Elsa Rassbach, American Voices Abroad (AVA)
Joachim Guilliard, forum against war in Heidelberg

The initiative "American Voices Abroad - Military Project" reported about the character of the US military system. In the USA there is no conscription but to define the system as professional military is also wrong, because most of the US military consists of young men, who saw no alternative than to go to the military, because they don't get another job, they want to get the American citizenship or they want to study afterwards with subsidies from the US administration. So you have to call it a "job army".
These young people usually sign an 8-year military service contract with 4 years of active duty, during which there were often several 12- month deployments to combat zones. Recently the combat deployments were extended to 15 months. Many soldiers who come back from the battle zones are traumatized and want to leave the military; many even became pacifists. Only seldom cases can they succeed in being acknowledged as conscious objectors. In contrary the active duty service contracts are often extended beyond the four years against the will of the soldiers ("stop-loss"). Therefore, the number of soldiers who oppose this system in the military is increasing. Therefore the initiative thinks it is worthwhile to speak directly with the soldiers and to offer them information regarding where they can consult about their situation, such as the GI Rights Hotline, and also to offer them friendship. During the Vietnam War era, the US military system was to some extent destroyed from within due to desertion and GI resistance.

Peace activists form Heidelberg gave a report. Besides Ramstein, Spangdahlem, Grafenwöhr and Landstuhl Heidelberg is very important as a centre of warfare. Heidelberg is home town of the US 5th army corps. General Sanchez was the commander in Heidelberg for the Iraq. He is responsible for the war crimes in Falludscha and Abu Ghraib and he is still the chief of the 5th army corps.