9th May 2016
Today is Europe Day. Held on 9th May every year Europe Day celebrates peace and unity in Europe. This year, with a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union just over a month away, it is particularly timely to remember the origins of this commemoration.
The date marks the anniversary of the historical ‘Schuman declaration‘ and the beginnings of what has become the European Union. In a speech in Paris in 1950 the French Foreign Minister of the time – Robert Schuman – set out a visions for economic co-operation as the basis for peace in Europe after the devastation of two World Wars. He said:
“World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.
“The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilisation is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.”
Based on this vision European governments determined to make war not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.
The EU has developed over time and is now about more than managing production. The current treaty contains this international vision of:
“reinforcing the European identity and its independence in order to promote peace, security and progress in Europe and in the world”.
Economic cooperation is still important. However, there are many of us who feel that this has become too much an end in itself, to the exclusion of other aims, and not as a means to a peaceful future. 66 years on from Shuman’s declaration the EU must do more to reduce inequalities, promote human rights and live within the environmental limits of the planet – a peaceful future depends on these.
The EU has actively worked for peace within Europe and beyond its borders, and continues to do so. In recent months, The EU was responsible for negotiating a breakthrough in Iran’s nuclear talks, something the US could not have achieved on its own. A European Parliament vote for an end of arms sales to Saudi Arabia is a further example.
Peace is a condition achieved through determination and wilful action, not through the threat of military might. The EU’s democratic nations working together can and do achieve this.
This year more than any other we would be wise to remind ourselves of the legacy of peace and prosperity the architects of the EU have left us and defend it by remaining a part of the EU.
I sometimes feel that some people in the UK still believe in a form of ‘splendid isolation’ and fail to recognise that there always were alliances and we are even more connected in today’s world.
Europe Day is an opportunity for reflection about the role of the EU in the world and what the UK’s place in that is and could be. This year, we should also consider whether stepping away from possibly the most progressive grouping of states in the modern world (despite all its difficulties) is a wise thing to do.
Europe Day reminds us that the EU was founded on the basis of being a project for peace between the countries and peoples of Europe and in the world. I believe that is a vision worth voting for. I shall vote ‘Remain’ on June 23rd.
by Jean Lambert