Saturday, 31 October 2009

Benelux Countries to Discuss Nuclear Withdrawal

Following the inauguration of a new German centre-right coalition government calling for the removal of US nuclear weapons from Germany, the discussion is spreading to involve the Benelux countries.

This week, Belgian Foreign Minister Yves Leterme told the Belgian Senate that he will discuss the issue with German, Dutch and Luxembourgeois colleagues in the course of the coming week. He said that Belgium is a partisan for a nuclear weapon free world and that removing US nuclear weapons from Europe is a crucial step towards that goal. Like Germans, Leterme advocates achieving this goal in a NATO framework. Leterme said that he would like the NATO ministerial meeting this December to discuss the issue.

That may be a little quick for the Germans who have talked about nuclear negotiations as part of the Strategic Concept debate, currently in a reflection phase and due to move into serious negotiations next Spring.

Obstacles to withdrawal remain. In mid-October the Dutch government had rejected resolutions in the Dutch parliament for the withdrawal of nuclear weapons based at Volkel airbase. However, privately the foreign ministry has been more amenable to discussing the issue and the German government action has changed the debate significantly.

It is not known how Turkey will react to this new initiative, but they have not been notably positive in the past on denuclearisation, despite ending their role in nuclear sharing. Also, some countries in the 'new Europe' like Poland may well have a strong reaction against the removal of this visible symbol of US commitment to Europe.

Bilateral Belgian-German discussions will take place this coming Tuesday when German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visits Brussels.

More details in Dutch and French.

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