200 Belgian mayors ask abolition of nuclear weapons and withdrawal NATO nuclear weapons
INVITATION newsconference Tuesday April 19th - 12:30, Rotonde 1, Belgian Parliament, Leuvenseweg 21, 1000 Brussels
Today almost 200 Belgian mayors out of a total of 589 have responded to the emergency call by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the worldwide abolition of all nuclear weapons by 2020 and withdrawal of U.S. nukes from Europe
Brussels - On Tuesday April 19th a delegation of mayors including Bruno de Lille (Groen! Brussels), Ingrid Pira (Groen! Mortsel), Jean Marie Cheffert (MR - Ciney), Luc Dehaene (CD&V Ypres) and Patrik Vankrunkelsven (VLD Laakdal) will meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel De Gucht. During a press conference they will present the aims and plans of the campaign to the press.
Bruno De Lille (Brussel), Ingrid Pira (Mortsel) en Patrik Vankrunkelsven (Laakdal) will join an impressive international delegation of mayors at the start of the NPT conference in New York where they will talk about the “2020 Vision”. They will also follow the plenary debates and meet with official national delegations, UN leaders and NGOs (1).
The mayors are calling on the Belgian government to concentrate on its own disarmament obligations and on the urgent need for nuclear disarmament during the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference which starts on May 2 at the UN in New York . The mayors are demanding that Belgium takes the initiative in setting up an international conference to negotiate a treaty for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons as determined in Article VI of the NPT. The Belgian mayors also ask for the removal of the U.S. nuclear weapons from Kleine Brogel and Europe.
At the beginning of this year the mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, was in Belgium to explain his ‘2020 Vision’ to audiences at the European Parliament, as well as the federal and local levels, and to seek support for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons by the year 2020. Mr Akiba is President of the Mayors for Peace World Conference. Today almost 1,000 mayors worldwide have signed-up to the network.
After this visit a number of Belgian mayors decided to call on all of the 589 Belgian mayors, asking them to join the network. This request was signed by six mayors from several regions and political parties, amongst others Anne-Marie Lizin (PS - Huy), Frank Beke (Sp.a - Gent), Ingrid Pira (Groen! - Mortsel), former prime minister and mayor Jean-Luc Dehaene (CD&V - Vilvoorde), Luc Dehaene (CD&V - Ypres) en Patrik Vankrunkelsven (VLD - Laakdal). As a result there are now 196 Belgian members of Mayors for Peace, which is a huge increase from 52 in March 2005, and 6 last year. And each day new members join the network (2).
The mayor of the Peace City of Ypres, Luc Dehaene (CD&V), is a strong advocate of the emergency call of the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “As a peace city we want to assume our responsibility, including internationally. On 22 April 1915, almost 90 years ago, Ypres was victim of the first ever use of chemical weapons. If an international prohibition of chemical weapons was possible it must also be possible for nuclear weapons. The worldwide prohibition on nuclear weapons must be achieved”, said Luc Dehaene.
Patrik Vankrunkelsven, senator and VLD mayor in Laakdal stated that the international community must focus on its own standards if it wants any credibility. “We do not appear convincing if we prohibit Iran and North-Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons (= non-Proliferation) while we in NATO continue to use a nuclear deterrent for our own security. We are even developing new, more useable nuclear weapons and hardly getting rid of any older ones. Belgium must give a clear signal as soon as possible and ask for the removal of the nuclear weapons from Kleine Brogel”, says Vankrunkelsven, who drew up large part of the NPT resolution in the senate.
The positive outcome of the Mayors for Peace campaign is an additional element in the political debate in the chamber and the senate where a resolution has been submitted concerning the NPT conference. The resolutions discuss the commitments our allies have made in Article VI of the NPT to complete nuclear disarmament. The resolution asks the government to contribute to the realisation of a stricter disarmament agenda during the review conference and also calls for the gradual withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Europe. The US is the only country that has nuclear weapons stationed in the territory of other countries.
Bruno De Lille (Groen!), who replaces Brussels’ mayor Freddy Thielemans (PS) during the NPT conference in New York, explained that it is very important for the city of Brussels in particular to support the emergency call for the abolition of all nuclear weapons by 2020. “As capital of Europe and host city for NATO headquarters we certainly do not want to be left behind, instead we take on our responsibilities today”.
The 196 Belgian members of Mayors for Peace are an unexpected encouragement for Abolition 2000 Belgium, the Belgian network for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The network had hoped for 100 signatures by the start of the NPT conference in New York on 2 May 2005. The current number is an important indicator for the political leaders in our country.
The success of the Mayors for Peace campaign in Belgium was made possible thanks to the close cooperation between the Peace City Ypres and For Mother Earth - Friends of the Earth Flanders. Since 2004 Pol D'Huyvetter of For Mother Earth has coordinated the Abolition 2000 network in Belgium (3). Also the persisting efforts of Prof. Pierre Pierart and Prof. Henri Firket of the French-speaking division of Doctors for Peace and Peter Craeyeveld of VOS contributed to the current success of the Abolition 2000 campaign. The Mayors for Peace campaign is clearly a new ally in realising their demands.
Future activities are already on the agenda to keep the campaign alive.
Next summer For Mother Earth - Friends of the Earth Flanders is organising an international peacewalk. Hundreds of walkers are expected to commemorate the 60th the anniversary of the nuclear bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Along the route the walkers will ask the mayors along the route for their their active support for the international emergency call of the ' Mayors for Peace’. The walk leaves Ypres on Tuesday 26 July and goes via NATO headquarters in Brussels to the secret NATO nuclear weapon base of Kleine Brogel. http://www.motherearth.org/walk/index_en.php
During the Flemish Peace Week of 23 September till 2 October 2005 there will be campaigns with mayors for a prohibition on nuclear weapons.
(1) Mayors for Peace during NPT - New York
(2) Belgian members of Mayors for Peace
(3) Abolition 2000 België has 58 members.
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