Leader comment: Europe’s change has to come

Ministers in Rome sign the treaties establishing the European Economic Community (the EEC) and European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). From left to right P.H. Spaak and Jean-Charles Snoy  of Oppuers (Belgium), Christian Pineau and Maurice Faure (France), Konrad Adenauer and W. Hallstein (Germany), A. Segni and C. Martino (Italy), J. Bech and L. Schaus (Luxembourg), J.Luns and J. Linthorst Homan (Netherlands).

Ministers in Rome sign the treaties establishing the European Economic Community (the EEC) and European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). From left to right P.H. Spaak and Jean-Charles Snoy of Oppuers (Belgium), Christian Pineau and Maurice Faure (France), Konrad Adenauer and W. Hallstein (Germany), A. Segni and C. Martino (Italy), J. Bech and L. Schaus (Luxembourg), J.Luns and J. Linthorst Homan (Netherlands).

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From any viewing of history it was a truly remarkable achievement. The signing of the Treaty of Rome by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany to create the European Economic Community in 1957 came just 12 years after the end of the most brutal and damaging war, a war which had seen countries pitched against each other in a war of monumental casualties and horrific crimes against humanity. The bringing together of these countries in a belief that closer co-operation would help to prevent such destruction ever returning was a bold and inspiring move.

Given that context it is entirely understandable to take the view that ever greater union would lead to ever greater security, easy to see why some would think that the terror and destruction of war was worth avoiding at even a high cost of loss of national sovereignty.

So has the passing of 60 years meant that we have simply forgotten the lessons of war, and are about to see the throwing away of all the benefits that European Union has brought?

The Brexit vote means the grand European project will change, but what that level of change is remains to be seen. But it seems unlikely that the European Union will soon be heading to the delightful sunny uplands of an ever-closer Europe.

There are divisions emerging. Greece wants to see a move towards greater social justice, recently the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg issued a joint statement calling for “different paths” of integration. But that does not mean the lessons of the past have been forgotten, but simply that there is confidence those dark days will never return.

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