Every Friday in Parliament’s European Committee, I debate EU politics with the EU spokespersons from the other parties. It’s important work, and we have many good debates.
But I couldn’t avoid noticing the confidence of the committee’s deputy chairman Kenneth Kristensen Berth, of the Danish People’s Party (DF), when he occasionally asserts that the EU isn’t a peace project, but quite the opposite. According to Berth, the EU is a form of evil empire that works against peace and encourages divisions. It’s totally wrong, of course, and deserves a response.
If there is anything at all that characterises cooperation in the EU, it’s that the conflicts that occasionally arise between member states are framed within democratic institutions that can ensure that banal disagreements don’t spiral into potentially violent conflicts. The cooperation originated, after all, as a way to control the access that Germany and France have to coal and steel – the ingredients for war. In that sense, establishing peace is in the very DNA of the EU.
As a citizen of one of the EU’s smallest member states, Kenneth Berth Kristensen should consider the obvious advantages of being tied into European institutions. It’s not the strong who rule, but rather the law. Small countries are not trampled, but enjoy a degree of influence far greater than what their size would suggest.
Last year, Forbes magazine conducted a large study asking 40,000 people from all over the world which country they had the highest opinion of in terms of tolerance, life satisfaction, lack of corruption and pollution, and a number of other positive characteristics. The conclusion was clear: of the 20 highest-ranked countries in the study, 15 were European. The USA came in 28th place, and China was way down the list, in 57th. That so many European countries are placed so highly on the list tells us that Europe has found an exceptional way to organise itself.
You can of course choose to ignore the progress that has been made over the past 60 years, in terms of welfare, freedom and peace. But it’s pretty hard to avoid the reality. The EU is and will continue to be the most successful peace project in modern history. Just look at Spain and Portugal, whose accession to the EU helped strengthen and stabilise their democracies after their transition away from authoritarian regimes.
The EU has absolutely contributed to spreading and maintaining peace in Europe, supporting human rights and the democratisation of candidate countries, while also pushing back against the arbitrary and odious uses of power that we have witnessed so often throughout history.
Despite the fact that Europe has possessed considerable military power, we have often been reluctant to use it and have instead specialised in alternatives to military solutions. In fact, it is precisely in this area that the EU has globally exerted enormous power, but through peaceful means.
The EU has supported peace, both in Europe and around the world, for over 60 years. Sadly, Kenneth Berth Kristensen is so blinded by rage against the EU that he overlooks even the most obvious benefits of European cooperation. And that’s a shame, because there are many. M
MP Holger K. Nielsen represents the Socialist People’s Party (SF).