If their national governments won't ban nuclear weapons, many Europeans are turning to local means. As December draws near, when NATO begins deploying 572 new US medium-range missiles in Western Europe, a campaign to ban them is gaining momentum in towns and countryside.
A British group, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), says 156 out of 520 local authorities there have declared themselves nuclear-free, including London and all eight counties of Wales. Seventy-one local Dutch authorities have declared they will use every legal means to prevent nuclear weapons being stationed on their territory, according to the Inter-Church Peace Council. And more than 30 West German urban and district councils have proclaimed their areas nuclear-free zones.
Mayors and councilors of self-styled nuclear-free cities met in Brussels last month and urged colleagues in West and East Europe to express concern through such local bans. The congress resolved to encourage peace studies and propose concrete steps toward a nuclear-free world.
Alarmed by the campaign, West European governments say the nuclear-free declarations have no legal force. But antimissile activists call them a legitimate way of dramatizing grass-roots opposition to the arms race. The West German campaign organizer, Andreas Zumach, said the aim was to build a mosaic of nuclear-free zones that would eventually span the whole continent. Priority was being given to districts where the US weapons would be deployed, which perhaps explains why the Bonn government is trying to keep the sites secret.