EU found­ing ideas are still as rel­e­vant as ever

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - 60 YEARS OF EUROPEAN UNITY - Joe Der­mody

On May 9, 1950, French For­eign min­is­ter Robert Schu­man pro­posed that Europe’s lead­ing na­tions cre­ate a union to pool their coal and steel pro­duc­tion.

Robert Schu­man’s dec­la­ra­tion be­gan: “World peace can­not be safe­guarded with­out the mak­ing of cre­ative ef­forts pro­por­tion­ate to the dan­gers which threaten it.”

Five years af­ter the end of World War II, Schu­man’s call for an eco­nomic plan to sup­port a peace­ful Europe was ap­plauded glob­ally.

“The pool­ing of coal and steel pro­duc­tion,” said Schu­man, “will change the des­tinies of those re­gions which have long been devoted to the man­u­fac­ture of mu­ni­tions of war, of which they have been the most con­stant vic­tims.”

France, West Ger­many, the Nether­lands, Bel­gium, Lux­em­bourg and Italy were the founder mem­bers of the Euro­pean Coal and Steel Com­mu­nity.

Over the decades that have fol­lowed, this core group has ex­panded to now to­tal 28 mem­ber states in what we now know as the Euro­pean Union, guided by the cen­tral au­thor­ity of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, and un­der­pinned by the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice.

Evo­lu­tion of Europe

Of course, the na­ture of the EU has con­tin­ued to evolve over the years, as have the struc­tures within which it op­er­ates. All the while, the core prin­ci­ples of peace and unity re­main the solid foun­da­tion, the back­drop against which the peo­ple in each mem­ber state con­tinue to de­fine and direct the type of EU they want.

Still, with Bri­tain hav­ing voted to leave the EU, and with mem­ber­ship hav­ing been put be­fore vot­ers as an elec­tion is­sue in sev­eral other mem­ber states, it is worth re­flect­ing upon the goals of peace and unity which have un­der­pinned suc­ces­sive treaties.

Pol­i­tics and eco­nomics

In the decades since World War II, there has been no war among mem­ber states; and though some neigh­bours have con­flict, thank­fully not on the scale of a full global war.

More re­cently, how­ever, peo­ple in Europe and the rest of the world have seen the es­ca­la­tion of a new type of con­flict — a bor­der­less ter­ror­ism that has rocked the foun­da­tions of so­ci­eties through­out the world.

It’s hard not to align the ris­ing fears peo­ple have in re­la­tion to ter­ror­ism with the global resur­gence in na­tion­al­is­tic sen­ti­ment, and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity across the world, with tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal par­ties los­ing ground to en­ti­ties with mes­sages about na­tional iden­tity cou­pled with old world pro­tec­tion­ist eco­nomic poli­cies.

Of course, there was also the global bank­ing cri­sis and a decade- long global re­ces­sion, but there is cer­tainly also an el­e­ment of fear guid­ing the world’s cur­rent po­lit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity.

A sense of in­sta­bil­ity that is eerily fa­mil­iar to any­one born in the 1940s and 1950s. And for Robert Schu­man and the many who have worked to­wards and con­trib­uted to the EU’s con­stantly evolv­ing ideals — such as peace, unity and eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity — now must seem like a very good time to re­flect on all that unity has achieved for the EU’s mem­ber states.

Robert Schu­man, who led the use of eco­nomic union to foster peace across Europe.

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