martedì, luglio 06, 2004

A French Tale.

It's strange how you come across things sometimes, isn't it. I was reading EUbusiness, looking at the latest reports on the financial situation with regards to the recent Italian plea for leniency (see item below) and came across this interesting litle item about France declaring that it could be the protector of Europe, seeing as it has a nuclear capability. Interesting, I thought. Especially so as the offer of protection was made by the French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie in an interview Monday with the German newspaper, Berliner Zeitung. She then went on to say that France has a "mobile, flexible and highly-motivated military" and that it was the "second or third best in the world."

She also added that "Today in Europe there are only three countries who spend more than 2.0 percent of GDP on defence. They are France, Britain and Greece. The others are not doing enough". So, the suggestion to Germany was that they should, together with the majority of other EU Member States, increase spending on arms and armaments - which, strangely enough, France actually manufactures in abundance.

Surely this couldn't be just simply a ploy to increase the sale of French arms - could it?

In fact, arms sales throughout the world are still doing very well - with sales barely touched by world-wide concerns regarding terrorism issues. Obviously (!) the USA is at the top of the heap when it comes to sales of armaments, with around 45% of the total world market in arms sales - 13.3 BILLION dollars! Russia is still doing well with sales of 5.7 Billion dollars, putting it into second place in the league table of arms sellers, followed by the Ukraine with a mere 1.6 billion dollars. Interesting to see the Ukraine getting in to 3rd place as that has traditionally being France's league position - so, obviously they have to do something to drum up a little more business again.

One of the new initiatives has been to tackle the growing market for arms in China. In January of this year, French President Jacques Chirac held a joint conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao to celebrate the "Year of China" in Paris. What was the main thrust of that meeting? It was to call for the lifting of the embargo that the EU has had in place against China with respect of arms sales since 1989. This would have to also displace the 1998 EU Code of Conduct baring the sale of equipment that could be used in regional conflicts or domestic repression, which would still be enforceable on arms sales to China, despite any possible lifting of the 1989 embargo. Despite this, France, together with Germany, has pushed for a full review of the embargo, paving the way to recommence arms sales to China again.

France is, of course, no stranger to the selling of arms to countries with little or no record of the responsible use of such weapons. Back in 1975 France won a major contract for the supply of arms to Iraq, with payment being in part, the supply of oil and petroleum products.

Now that the old 'Soviet Bloc' has broken up, of course, there is a substantial influx of new arms dealers competing in the marketplace. The fact that the Ukraine is now holding 3rd place in the world chart of arms manufacturers is a result of this breaking up of the old Sovietski. There are other countries bucking for a share of the lucrative arms market though - not all with the moral standards of the established dealers - whatever that standard may be.

But, morals aren't something to talk about in the same breath as any of the arms dealers, are they. Any of them. The UN Register of Conventional Arms makes for interesting reading. There is little else that can be said - only thought and felt.