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100 years since the 1918 Armistice – what lessons has Europe learned in keeping the peace in Europe?
The First World war caused around 40 million casualties and between 15-19 million deaths and ranks as one of the most deadly human conflicts recorded by humanity against itself. Following the First World war the first signs of a Rules Based structure for international relations took root, with the creation of the League of Nations in January 1920 , (enabled by the Treaty of Versailles) with the stated aim of providing “Collective Security and Disarmament” amongst its members. This organisation was later to morph into the United Nations, which it did on the 24th October 1945 after the devastation of the Second World War, which caused 60 million deaths – the most deadly human conflict ever recorded.
The key country at the heart of both conflicts was Germany, wreaking havoc with economies; empires; cultures and societies. For those who felt the pain and devastation of the Second World War making Europe a more interdependent economic and social bloc seemed to make sense, so that warfare (so they believed) would become a thing of the past and Europe could progress in peaceful co-existence, operating as if it was (in essence) one country, with the scourge of Nation States eradicated and the peoples of Europe living as one.
There were many architects of this European Plan, but one name dominates, a Jean Monnet, a Frenchman (who worked for the British and became a close confident to Herbert Hoover) became known as the father of the European Union. His analysis of the need for a European Union is nicely summarised in the following quote:
“There will be no peace in Europe if the States rebuild themselves on the basis of national sovereignty, with its implications of prestige politics and economic protection… The countries of Europe are not strong enough individually to be able to guarantee prosperity and social development for their peoples. The States of Europe must therefore form a federation or a European entity that would make them into a common economic unit”.
The embryonic organisation which would become the European Union began life as the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958, ostensibly an economic market, where countries could trade together and build prosperity. Even in these early days, the aggressive head of national politics would rear its head, despite all the help Europe was given by Britain (and especially France in the first and second world war) France worked hard to keep Britain out of the emerging EEC, refusing to allow the UK to become a member, with President De Gaulle (having been sheltered by the UK during the war) turning his back on his ally and friend, asserting that France should be at the head of the EEC and excluding the UK’s accession until 1975. By the time the UK joined the EEC, it was clear the rules and benefits of this club had been set very much in favour of Germany and France and to the detriment of Britain, with France extracting huge subsidies for its inefficient and dysfunctional agricultural economy, leading to wine lakes and butter mountains, all paid for out of the taxes of other countries. For Germany the EEC presented an opportunity to revitalise German industrial production, by throwing up a wall of protection around the market of the EEC, through which foreign competitors would find it difficult to penetrate – allowing the EEC to become a cosy club with pretentions to become very much more than that. Through a succession of “Treaties” entitled ..Rome; Brussels; Amsterdam; Nice and Lisbon, the EEC transformed itself into the European Union, each Treaty enabling the organisation to develop from an Association to the trappings of a Country, with legal personality….the EU is pursuing a seat at the Security Council and a Seat at the United Nations in its own right with EU Embassies being established around the World, with a Parliament, a Council and a President.
In 100 years Europe has seen the diversity of its nations and societies be forcibly consolidated into one Community, formally consisting of 28 sovereign nation states. The EU however is not a happy place. Large right wing political movements have sprung up; angry at a system of government which preaches “one size fits all”. Here we are in 2018, we look at the huge demographic changes brought about by the EU, where large numbers of people have left the poorer parts of Eastern Europe and fled to richer parts of Europe leaving dying economies. We see the inefficient southern economies of Greece; Italy; Portugal for example, highly dependent on subsidies and development grant aid from net contributors such as Germany and the UK. We look at the explosion of people trafficking; gun and drug smuggling and international theft from the flawed open border Agreement known as Shengen and we look at the behaviour of Germany, for a third time dominating Europe, this time not with bombs and bullets but with economic weapons and their control and manipulation of the Euro, a currency they helped create and now underwrite, which has reduced the price of their goods and within which they hide one of the biggest Economic surpluses ever recorded.
Britain braved the tsunami of criticism to challenge the supremacy of Germany within Europe, by electing to leave the EU. We have found however, the EU will not let the UK leave without wishing to inflict serious economic damage on us and I will inform readers of the various penalties the EU will seek to inflict on the UK in my future dispatches. What is clear, is that 100 years on, Germany is still a threat to democracy and still seeks to govern Europe in its own image, now with pretensions to build a European Army….to protect us from America, so says Mr Macron!
Christine Constable BSc MBA is a political journalist and Board Member of the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy.
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Susquehanna Valley Center.
Nothing contained here should be considered as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation.