One of the EU’s founding principles is “to make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible” – Robert Schuman, French foreign minister in 1950.
This principle is reflected in the wide range of peace, reconciliation, humanitarian aid and civil protection initiatives undertaken by the EU today, not just across the world but also in Northern Ireland.
The EU has been instrumental in helping secure peace in Northern Ireland, both politically and economically. Northern Ireland remains one of the poorest economic regions in Britain, and relies heavily on subsidies from both the EU and UK, as well as economic ties within the Republic of Ireland facilitated by an open border.
From 2007 to 2013 alone, the EU spent 2.4 billion euros on peace projects in the region.
The EU’s PEACE I programme (1995-99) was approved on 28 July 1995, and has been so successful that the fourth edition of the programme is now underway. Up to 229 million Euros will be spent by 2020 by the EU on projects aimed at integrating Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.
“Europe’s contribution was shown recently by the announcement that an additional 190 million pounds would be spent to support peace and reconciliation,” Will Straw, the executive director of Britain Stronger in Europe said in an interview. “Turning our back on Europe now could put that at risk, as well as costing jobs, growth and leading to higher prices for people in Northern Ireland,” he said.
Born of the ashes of WW2
Winston Churchill, widely considered one of the EU’s founding fathers, was strongly in favour of union between the countries of Europe for reasons of peace.
Our task, Churchill said in a speech to post-war Europe in Zurich in 1946, “is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe”.
Nobel Peace Prize
In 2012 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU for “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.
“After the decimation of the Second World War, reconciliation between Germany and France was an important step towards fostering peace in Europe. The two countries – which by then had fought three wars within the space of 70 years – built the European Coal and Steel Community together with four other countries in 1952. This organization became the foundation for an ever-broader cooperation within what has been known since 1993 as the European Union (EU).”
“…the Norwegian Nobel Committee wished to reward the EU’s successful struggle for peace, reconciliation and for democracy and human rights. When the community expanded to include additional countries during the 1970s and 1980s, democracy was a prerequisite for membership. After the fall of European communist regimes around 1990, the union was able to expand to include several countries in Central and Eastern Europe, where democracy had been strengthened and conflict checked. The Nobel Committee also believes that the question of EU membership is bolstering the reconciliation process after the wars in the Balkan States, and that the desire for EU membership has also promoted democracy and human rights in Turkey.”
‘Don’t abandon the Europe that I fought for – and my comrades died for‘ letter from a WW2 RAF pilot.
Former UK Prime Minister, Edward Heath, writing in the Independent – A Euro-sceptic? Churchill? Never, 26/09/96
2012 Nobel Peace Prize announcement
IB Times article: What would Brexit mean for Northern Ireland? 01/01/16
European Parliament report: the EU and Northern Ireland, 07/11/14
European Commission report: Northern Ireland in Europe, October 2014
About the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO)
Guardian article by a WW2 RAF pilot – Don’t abandon the Europe that I fought for – and my comrades died for, 16/06/16