Italy moves towards disarmament

The 'Italian Campaign Against Landmines' has presented a bill that stops banks from financing landmines and cluster bomb industries. This is being seen as a significant step to ensure that industries operating in the national territory of Italy would not produce explosive devices, munitions and cluster submunitions.


The 'Italian Campaign Against Landmines', in a press conference last week in Rome, presented a Bill on "Measures to stop financing to companies that produce landmines and cluster munitions" (text in .pdf) . The Bill, presented by senator Silvana Amati (PD), and signed by sen. Barbara Contini (PdL) as well as several other senators of the PD, is an important legislative initiative promoted by the 'Italian Campaign against landmines' and by 'Fondazione Culturale Responsabilità Etica' and backed by the Italian Disarmament Network.
We will speak with Giorgio Beretta about it, the editor-in-chief of OneWorld and expert in the sector who has recently carried out detailed research on banks that have supported Italian arms export in the last decade.
Andrea Dalla Palma: Giorgio, why are regulations needed in this sector?
Giorgio Beretta: So that there be consistency and guarantees for all. Since Italy has ratified the Ottawa Treaty that bans landmines and ' notwithstanding the usual bureaucratic delays ' is about to ratify the "UN cluster convention" it should also assure that industries operating on national territory not produce these damn explosive devices, but as well that Italian banks be totally safeguarded in not financing operations with companies that build them.
Andrea: Are you referring to something in particular?
Giorgio: Yes, for example to what ' among other things is mentioned in the presentation of the Bill ' and involves the Intesa Sanpaolo group that together with 31 other banks must renew a revolving credit in favour of Lockheed Martin, a company that produces everything from civil aircrafts to cluster bombs. This was made known in the report on "Worldwide investments in cluster munitions: a shared responsibility" published by the Dutch IKV Pax Christi and by the Netwerk Vlaanderen (a Dutch civil society network) counselled by Profundo a research.
Andrea: Nothing to do with Italian companies?
Giorgio: There are cases that are less known but very relevant for us. Let's take one company for example, Simmel Difesa of Colleferro in the province of Rome. An inquiry of Rainews24 has documented that its catalogue ' up to a few years ago advertised "cluster munition" systems: and when Campaigns and the press pointed this out, what did it do? The catalogue was no longer accessible to the public and a note appeared on its website stating that the company was in line with national and international laws for the production of munitions. But this does not mean, given that "clusters" have not yet been banned, that the company can not build them. What I am saying is, they are not in their catalogue and the company claims that it "doesn't produce" them, but "can produce them". And from a detailed document published by Human Rights Watch (in .pdf), Italy is one of the countries that produces cluster munitions and "can have a great quantity of stockpiles".
Andrea: And what do the banks have to do with all this?
Giorgio: They're involved even if, it's true, banks are not of course experts in arms systems. Let's take for example two cases that involve precisely Simmel Difesa. We know for certain that this company has used Italian banks to deposit payments for the export of their arms. One is Banca Popolare of Etruria and Lazio (Banca Etruria) in which, in 2005, payments totalling 5.6 million euro were deposited for more than 12 thousand caliber 81 mm. illuminating mortar bombs exported to Great Britain as well as at least three operations with India. The first totalling 1.97 million dollars for 10 thousand "FB40 range fuses" ' used to increase the lethalness of artillery projectiles and eliminate possible countermeasures; the other totalling 350 thousand dollars for 10 thousand kilos of caliber 40/70 mm shot launch powder and the last totalling 305 thousand dollars for 500 complete caliber 40/70 mm cartridges and shells.
Andrea: And the other bank?
It's Banco di Sardegna, of the BPER Group (Banca Popolare of Emilia Romagna) that in 2006 exported systems with "complete cartridges cal. 76/62 PFF IM84 with fuses" totalling 2.8 million euro to Chile. This is nothing...
Andrea: Because of the arms system?
Giorgio: Not only, but also because of implications for account holders and Ngos that deal with the BPER Group. Banca Popolare of Emilia Romagna, for example, supports Emergency, the humanitarian association founded in 1994 by Gino Strada to help civil victims of war. It developed important commercial projects with the BPER Group, one involves solidarity credit cards: Friends of Emergency Card and Bpercard Emergency, vastly pubblicised on Emergency's website. The fact that Banca Popolare of Emilia Romagna supports the arms business is something that Gino Strada's association must know seeing that since 2000 the Campaign addressed to "armed banks" circulates a list of banks that offer services to companies that produce and export arms. And, keep in mind, notwithstanding the fact that operations of BPER Group in this particular sector have increased from 2006 to 2008, BPER ' different from almost all the other principal Italian bank groups ' has never made any self-regulating policy for this sector public.
Andrea: Would it be possible to know with certainty if a bank has assisted in the export of Simmel Difesa munitions?
Giorgio: Up to a few years ago. An intervention of the Berlusconi Government ' and I believe with the approval of the highest members of Government ' the detailed list of each authorised operation by banks was not included for the last three years in the Report of the Prime Minister's Office on Italian arms. This list named the countries and the amounts of each deposit transaction carried out for Italian arms export companies. Just to make things clear, this list has existed since the first government Reports on arms export were presented to Parliament and signed by Giulio Andreotti then Prime Minister. And since the Berlusconi Government has been in power it has disappeared from the Report: this has been repeatedly reported by the Campaigns to "armed banks" and official letters have even been sent to and received by the highest members of the Government that, however, have never been answered.
Andrea: Therefore, a new law is needed to make things known...
Giorgio: Exactly. If Italy really wants to be consistent when it signs a UN Treaty that bans cluster bombs it must ' as the Bill sets out - stop financing and support to companies that produce landmines, munitions and cluster submunitions above all on the part of banks, brokerage companies (SIM), asset management companies, investment companies with variable capital (SICAV) and any other kind of financing. And, obviously, it must give them a precise list of these companies.


Von:, by Andrea Dalla Palma, 09 June 2010

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