Eighth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Washington, DC USA 2000

The Netherlands Country Report

Euro's voor Vrede - extracts from annual reports 1997-1999

Introduction

Euro's voor Vrede is the new name of the former Beweging Weigering Defensiebelasting (BWD). As we had decided in 1998, we changed from the rather difficult name “Defense Tax Resistance Movement” to the new and more positive sounding name “Euros for Peace”. Apart from a new name, we also started with a new policy that we had agreed to in 1998. ‘Spearhead’ of this policy is the new campaign ‘Maak geld vrij voor geweldvrij!’ (Release money for non-violence) that we started in the second half of 1999.

Campaigns

New name and a new start. The new name Euro's voor Vrede was presented on 13 May 1999 during the Hague Appeal for Peace (HAP), with a small action. At the Ministry of Defence we ‘gathered’ huge piles of 450 euro banknotes; 450 euro being the average military expenditure per inhabitant in the European Union. A brass band Eigen Hulp gave some musical support. With the boxes full of banknotes we marched to the location of the HAP, where we delivered a large part of the Dutch military budget symbolically to all peace initiatives that were being discussed at the conference. During the march we leafleted the public - 450 euro banknote was also a leaflet. At the HAP the ‘euros for peace’ were handed over with a speech to Bruce Kent, well-known British activist against nuclear arms, and to Phon van den Biesen, the general secretary of the HAP. In this way the Beweging Weigering Defensiebelasting was renamed into Euro's voor Vrede. Together with a new name we produced a new bilingual leaflet and a new T- shirt. The new logo was designed by Trix van Vugt; it consists of a dove in the form of the symbol of the new European currency, the Euro.

V-biljet

The V-biljet is an alternative tax form, designed to show the taxpayer how much tax he or she has contributed to the military budget. The V-biljet can be used as a protest by sending it together with one's tax form to the tax collector pointing out one's objections to the assignment of his/her taxes to the military. From the start in 1992 the V-biljet campaign has been a yearly event. The campaign has been continued up to 1999, but, due to a low response in last years, we only distributed the V-biljet to our own members. In 1997, 30 of our supporters told us they had used the alternative form. In 1998, 23 did so; in 1999 only 18. In 1999 we decided to send the V-biljet only to those supporters who had asked for it.

‘GoudGulden Vrede’

In 1995 we had started the sale of the GoudGulden Vrede munt (peace coin). This coin was mainly used as a means of getting funds for the support of civil peace teams. After its success in 1995 and 1996, the sale of the coin dropped considerably. In 1999 the sale had nearly dropped to zero. Already in 1998 we had decided to stop the promotion of the coin. The revenue of the sale over the years 1997 and 1998 - totaling NLG 658,25 - was given to the Balkan Peace Team (BPT). When the sale started to decline in 1997 we had decided to launch a new campaign with the coin, the campaign “Paying for peace”. We encouraged people to withhold from their taxes the very small amount of NLG 1,40, and in stead send the tax collector a peace coin. We hoped that in this way the peace coin could be used in a new way. We spread some 5000 leaflets amongst peace groups. Although the campaign was partly a success - the tax collector in most cases accepted the coin and did not take further action - we stopped the campaign in 1998 due to a very low response. We concluded that the campaign had failed and stopped promoting it.

Tax resistance

The number of people who actually resisted to pay war taxes is not exactly known. Euro's voor Vrede estimates it to be around 10. In 1999 only four conscientious objectors informed Euro's voor Vrede that they had withheld their war taxes. In May 1997 Toon Franken, one of our supporters, protested in court against his income tax, stating that his conscience did not allow him to contribute to the state's military budget. The court rejected his case, although the judge sympathized with Toon's ideas. Toon lodged an appeal and on 17 June 1998 his case was heard before the High Court. The last time someone had had his case before the High Court was in 1984, when the High Court had rejected the case of the conscientious objector. The High Court's decision was at the end of 1999 still not known.

Political campaigns

At the end of 1996 the parliamentarians of the Green Left party decided to withdraw the bill “Conscientious Objection to Military Destination of Tax Money”. This bill had been ‘in the fridge’ for some years and meanwhile the parliamentarians who supported the bill had left parliament. The bill had never been voted in parliament, as it was clear that a large majority would vote against it. The Green Left party itself opposed the decision of their parliamentarians and pleaded for a discussion between the Green Left and the war tax resisters. Until today such discussion has not been held. In 1997, when the government announced a change in the Constitution paragraph on the military, Euro's voor Vrede had a quick campaign to amend the article on conscientious objection. We requested all political parties to broaden the article to objection to the military destination of tax money. Although none of them reacted in a positive way, some parties gave room to exchange views.

Release money for non-violence!

In 1998 in the National Council of Peace Organizations (LBVO) it was debated to launch a campaign against the purchase of military aircrafts and in favor of non-violent alternatives. At the start of 1999 it appeared that the LBVO could not start such campaign. Consequently Euro's voor Vrede made a plan for such a campaign, using the slogan Maak geld vrij voor geweldvrij (Release money for non-violence). The campaign aims to put pressure on the government to invest more in non-violent means of conflict resolution. With a leaflet and a return- card we want to gain support for this plea. By means of a brochure and our Newsletter, the campaign wants to show that there are many non-violent alternatives, but due to lack of funding, they are so small and marginal that they do not constitute a real alternative. The campaign wants to spread 50.000 leaflets and return-cards, in first instance aiming at people in the peace movement and later also aiming at a broader public. In 1999 we started by spreading some 3000 leaflets, of which we received 6 percent back. We hope that in 2000 the campaign will grow much bigger.

Publications

Our newsletter, Nieuwskrant Euro's voor Vrede, changed considerably after the change of name. In May 1999 the layout was adapted and in December 1999 also layout of the inner pages changed. Due to the name-change we also received a new ISSN-number: 1566-9130. In 1998 we produced an election-special, for the parliamentary elections in May 1998. We ourselves found it extremely hard to choose a political party that best matched our aims. No party seemed willing to cut the defense budget. Therefore we studied all party programmes and offered our readers an overview of their paragraphs on ‘peace and security’. The special was spread amongst our own supporters and some other peace groups. We also spread the special on an action day on 25 April and found that many people valued our comparison of the political parties.

Representation

LBVO Euro's voor Vrede is represented in the National Council of Peace Organizations (LBVO) by Wijnand Thoomes, who ran the LBVO-secretariat until 18 May 1999. Bart Horeman is treasurer of LBVO. Civil Peace Teams Netherlands (BVTN): Since 1997 Euro's voor Vrede has a special relationship with the Civil Peace Teams Netherlands foundation. Besides our campaign to raise funds for this foundation, the Euro's voor Vrede staff is hired to the foundation for secretarial sup- port. 0'43 - centre for peace initiatives November 1997 we moved to a new location, which was to become a new centre of Peace groups, called 0'43. Since its opening in February 1998 several groups have been housed here: the Anti-Militaristic Research Group (AMOK), the Civil Peace Teams Foundation (BVTN), Euro's voor Vrede, the Peace Projects Fund and the Peace Fund, the association Church and Peace, and the Association of COs (VD).

Organization

In September 1998 Trix van Vugt left Euro's voor Vrede and found a new job as a teacher of graphic design. At that time she had almost been in service for 14 years. She remained active and became treasurer. However, during 1999 she decided to step down from the board on 1-1-2000. On December 10 we had a party to celebrate her departure as staff member and board member. She was followed by Thom Custers, who became staff member in June 1999.

From 1-1-2000 onwards the board of Euro's voor Vrede consists of