19th Aug 2022

Europe's citizens unite in a call for peace

While Europe’s leaders fail to resolve their stark differences over Iraq, the European public is becoming increasingly united in its opposition to war. The force of this opposition will culminate on Saturday, 15 February, when protestors gather in 354 cities around the world in a call for peace.

The event has been billed by anti-war groups as globally "the single largest day of protests in world history."

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The scale of the imminent demonstrations reflects the growing tide of public opinion from New York to Oslo, from Japan to Athens, that an alternative to war should be found.

Overwhelming opposition

Opinion surveys suggest that without a further UN resolution, most Europeans are overwhelming opposed to military action in Iraq, and many would remain unconvinced even with a second.

According to the BBC, an opinion poll this week in Germany, Europe’s biggest opponent to war, makes it look like many Germans believe that America is the main threat to world peace.

The Forsa poll shows that 57% of German citizens believe that "the US is a nation of warmongers."

Anti-American feeling is also strong among British citizens, despite the UK being US President George Bush’s biggest ally. An opinion poll in the Times newspaper this week found that 51% of those questioned saw UK Premier Tony Blair as a US poodle, even though 47% trusted him to do the right thing.

A resounding 86% want more time for weapons inspections, while only 25% thought enough evidence had been found to justify a war.

Unprecendented figures

A recent EOS gallup poll showed that even with UN support, many European citizens remain firmly opposed to war, with the figures being highest in Sweden, Greece and Germany.

The figures are higher than polls about previous US-led wars because this campaign is seen to be pre-emptive rather than in response to aggressive action by an "enemy", says the BBC.

Despite strong statements from Eastern European leaders, such as the Vilnius-10 declaration last week, public opinion in the region is even more hostile to war than in the west.

A Gallup international poll just a few days ago found that support, even if sanctioned by the UN, reached just 38% in Romania, 28% in Bulgaria and 20% in Estonia. An overwhelming majority in Turkey is also opposed to war.

Strong peace movement

European citizens are becoming increasingly concerned at the growing momentum for war that seems to be out of their control. London is expected to host one of the largest European demonstrations on Saturday. The Guardian predicts that up to one million protestors could gather in Hyde Park for the "Stop the War Coalition (SWTC)" rally, dwarfing anti-Vietnam opposition in the 1960s and the peace movement of the 1980s. More than 450 organisations and 11 political parties will lend their support to the event.

Tens of thousands are likely to take to the streets of Berlin, a reflection of the growing peace movement in Germany, says FT Deutschland. Brussels, Europe’s capital, will also be a focus for action, with demonstrators gathering at the city’s north station at 14.00 on Saturday.

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