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War and Peace - A short history of Europe

April 19, 2016 8:13 AM
By David Walker - Loughborough
Originally published by Rutland and South Lincolnshire Liberal Democrats

European flagsAfter the first world war there was a peace conference in Versailles. The French Minister of Commerce and Industry, Etienne Clémentel, proposed a "new economic order" based on European cooperation. America opposed it and Britain failed to support it. It was rejected. Jean Monnet, a young assistant to Etienne Clémental recognised the potential of that vision and saw the consequences of its rejection.

During the next 20 years, the harsh injustices and short sightedness of the Versaille Treaty helped the rise of fascism in Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and the rise of communism in Russia. Europe was then subjected to its worst ever period of mass slaughter, genocide and destruction. Jean Monnet played an important role in co-ordinating allied efforts to defeat fascism.

The subsequent post-war settlement was so much better than after the first world war. When tensions between France and Germany rose over the control of the then vital coal and steel industries, Monnet and his associates revived the idea of European cooperation. On 9 May 1950, with the agreement of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman made a declaration in the name of the French government. This declaration, prepared by Monnet for Schuman, proposed integration of the French and German coal and steel industries under joint control, a so-called High Authority, open to the other countries of Europe.

So the potential resumption of hostilities between France and Germany were prevented by this move towards cooperation. Jean Monnet continued to lead the move to a new economic order based on economic cooperation, and is commemorated as the man of vision who led Europe away from its tradition of mutual hostility.

Europe now is peaceful, economically successful, and a beacon of democracy and justice in a troubled world. So much so that the fascist dictatorships of Southern Europe, and the communist dictatorships of Eastern Europe collapsed as their people sought for and gained admission to the EU.

The UK is the second largest economy in the EU and has huge influence determining the direction in which the EU is changing and will continue to change in future. All the other countries within the EU are aware of the huge significance of the UK as part of Europe economically, and as members of a common European culture. They do not want us to leave.

The current debate and the forthcoming vote is unfortunately focussed on details. The arguments about the leap in the dark of being in and being out, of greater prosperity if we are in or if we are out are important,

But what is really important is that we stay in the EU and contribute to that brighter future which Jean Monnet saw and worked for. Staying in and working for continual progress is the decision that our children and grandchildren will thank us for.

To vote to leave is just so negative, and puts an end to the role of the UK as a key member of the great project that has transformed this continent. Don't do it, vote for IN.

David Walker