Peace in Europe – our common future


On 23rd June I will vote for the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union, and I appeal to other voters to do likewise. Why? Because war, confict and violence are our greatest enemies. Our fearbears initiated the European project as they had witnessed two world wars within close succession of each other – 38 milion deaths in the First World War, 60 milion deaths in the Second World War. They asked themselves – how can we avoid a third world war on European soil? And the answer became the European project.

I quote from a speech given in 1946.

[.. ..]

I wish to speak about the tragedy of Europe, this noble continent, the home of all the great parent races of the Western world, the foundation of Christian faith and ethics, the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy and science both of ancient and modern times. If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance there would be no limit to the happiness, prosperity and glory which its 300 million or 400 million people would enjoy. Yet it is from Europe that has sprung that series of frightful nationalistic quarrels, originated by the Teutonic nations in their rise to power, which we have seen in this 20th century and in our own lifetime wreck the peace and mar the prospects of all mankind.

[.. ..]

over wide areas are a vast, quivering mass of tormented, hungry, careworn and bewildered human beings, who wait in the ruins of their cities and homes and scan the dark horizons for the approach of some new form of tyranny or terror. [.. ..] Indeed, but for the fact that the great republic across the Atlantic realised that the ruin or enslavement of Europe would involve her own fate as well, and stretched out hands of succour and guidance, the Dark Ages would have returned in all their cruelty and squalor. They may still return.

[.. ..]

crimes and massacres have been committed for which there is no parallel since the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, no equal at any time in human history. We must all turn our backs upon the horrors of the past and look to the future. If Europe is to be saved from infinite misery, and indeed from final doom, there must be this act of faith in the European family. Therefore I say to you “Let Europe arise!”                

Winston Churchill, Zürich University, 19th September 1946

The European project was born when we learnt from our mistakes. But the witnesses of the Second World War are gradually disappearing, and war’s horrors are being forgotten. It is time to recall the path we have followed so far, and remember the point where we started our common journey. Do we now choose the path of unravelling what we have achieved, the path that returns to separation, distance, distrust, conflict – or do we choose to cherish peace in Europe (the fruit of our integration), do we choose to improve the project we have inherited, do we choose a common future, do we choose to continue to call ourselves friends?



One Response to “Peace in Europe – our common future”

  1. Martin Flower Says:

    Let me add a comment on Winston Churchill. In 1946, Churchill’s vision was of a world with a number of large blocks – the United States, the USSR, the British Empire, and Europe. In his mind the last two would not overlap. I quote from his 1946 speech, not with the intention of asking how he would vote in 2016. Rather, the rhetorical device is to remind us of the historical background of the European Project. This was why it mattered in 1946 to have a European Project. Do those reasons still apply today? Yes, I believe they do. The European Project is weakened by a British ‘exit’. The European Project is strengthen by a British ‘remain’. I could no doubt have quoted from Adenauer, Monnet or Schuman, but I find Churchill makes the point in the most eloquent way.

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