Tilly Metz (2nd right) alongside fellow protesters on the runway at the Kleine-Brogel military airbase on Wednesday morning
Photo: Twitter/Molly Scott Cato
Armed forces minister François Bausch and CSV MEP Christophe Hansen have criticised Déi Gréng MEP Tilly Metz, while Déi Lénk sprang to her defence.
Luxembourg MEP Tilly Metz has been criticised by her fellow Déi Gréng party member François Bausch for taking part in a protest action at the US military airbase in Kleine-Brogel in Belgium on Wednesday morning.
Metz, along with Green MEPs Michèle Rivasi from France and Molly Scott Cato from the UK, blocked the base’s runway holding a large banner which read: “Europe free of nuclear weapons”, before they were detained. According to The Independent, Kleine-Brogel is home to the Belgian air force’s 10th tactical wing, “which operates US-built aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons. It is also home to a US munitions support squadron, which is thought to maintain the nuclear weapons at the base.”
The three were arrested along with 11 other protestors who remained outside the perimeter fence. Metz was released after some six hours in custody. She told RTL TV that she had been fully aware of the consequences of her action, but that campaigning for a Europe free of nuclear weapons was close to her heart. “We cannot allow the withdrawal from the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] by Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin to lead to a nuclear arms race in which Europe is caught in the middle,” she said.
But Bausch, who has been the minister in charge of the armed forces since last December, told the Tageblatt that Metz’s action was not “legitimate” and that he thought it was “inopportune to encroach on military zones”. He said that while the stationing of nuclear weapons in Europe is a subject that deserves debate, MEPs did not have “special status” that allowed them to break the law.
Fellow Luxembourg MEP Christophe Hansen, who represents the CSV, suggested that Metz’s protest was a way to launch her campaign for re-election to the European Parliament in May. He also questioned whether it was justifiable to hold the military and the police “hostage” for the purposes of “personal marketing”. Hansen also explained that he had been in Brussels on Wednesday to vote on climate change goals and genetic engineering as part of the EP environment committee, on which Metz also sits. “I think parliamentarians should take part in votes rather than storm airfields,” he told the Tageblatt.
Metz said that she had been treated fairly by the military and the police. She received support from the left-wing Déi Lénk party, whose two MPs sent a letter to the press titled “Free Tilly”. David Wagner and Marc Baum said they supported the protest “against the sustained militarization both in and outside Europe” and were pleased to see the Greens taking up the cause. “We would be even more pleased if Green politicians in Luxembourg would oppose Luxembourg’s armament policy with the same civilian disobedience,” the MPs wrote.