TOMORROW, celebrations will take place across Scotland and the rest of the European Union (EU) to mark Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity across the continent.
The day is also known as Schuman Day, commemorating the historical declaration 65 years ago, on 9 May 1950, by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, which marked the first move towards the creation of what we now know as the European Union. Europe had just come out of the Second World War, a conflict that had nearly destroyed the continent and split it between two spheres of influence.
In a desire not to repeat such destruction, there was a great deal of momentum towards European co-operation. Wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, standing next to Robert Schuman, had called for Franco-German reconciliation in a united Europe in a speech in July 1946.
Through the Schuman Declaration the French foreign minister proposed the creation of a supranational European institution. This led firstly to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). It was also the forerunner of several other European Communities and what is now the EU.
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 delivering much-needed reconciliation.
The EU ensures that member states co-operate peacefully. 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 who are fighting for the values of freedom and democracy across the world.
The EU is not perfect – far from it – but it represents the most successful experiment in international co-operation in human history.
As we mark 70 years of VE Day today, it does no harm to be reminded of what we have enjoyed, the precious gift of more than 60 years of peace and stability, and the role of the EU in delivering this achievement must be recognised and celebrated.
• Alex Orr is a board member of the European Movement