Alex Orr: The EU is not perfect, but it has helped to maintain peace
The awarding of the Nobel peace prize to the European Union has been met with some cynicism, coming as it does in the midst of one of the EU’s worst crises and rifts between member states.
There is however some need to pause and reflect on where Europe stood six decades ago when the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) – the forerunner of the EU, was founded.
This was a continent that had been destroyed by the Second World War, a war that came only two decades after the ending of the First World War.
The ECSC was founded on the principle that tying former arch-enemies economically together –originally through the weapons of war of coal and steel – would assist in ending the horrors of such conflicts and deliver much-needed reconciliation. And it has proven to be successful in transforming a previously warring continent.
The EU ensures that member states co-operate peacefully, instead of through the bloodshed so often experienced in the past. And the creation of the single market and with it the free movement of goods, capital, services and people, has also made us richer than we would have been without it.
The EU has also been an inspiration for those that are fighting for the values of freedom and democracy across the world. It is often difficult to remember these issues as we endure the deepest recession in the EU’s history, with rioting on the streets of Athens and increasing economic and social problems in Spain.
There is also rising Euroscepticism across the continent, including the UK, with the increasing likelihood of a referendum on the UK’s continued EU membership as the Conservatives come under electoral pressure from Ukip.
The EU is not perfect – far from it – but it represents the most successful experiment in international co-operation in human history.
As we look to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War in 2014, it does no harm in being reminded what we have enjoyed, the precious gift of more than 60 years of peace and stability, and the role of the European Union in delivering this achievement must be recognised and celebrated.
• Alex Orr is a board member of the European Movement
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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