Alex Orr: Time to celebrate Europe’s gifts

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Tomorrow celebrations will take place across Scotland and the rest of the European Union (EU) to mark Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity across the continent. This year’s celebrations are particularly timely given the elections to the European Parliament, one of the EU’s main law-making institutions, between 22nd and 25th May.

The day is also known as Schuman Day, commemorating the historical declaration 64 years ago on May 9, 1950 by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, which marked the first move towards the creation of what is now the European Union.

Europe had just come out of the Second World War, a conflict that had nearly destroyed the continent. And that war had started just two decades after the ending of the First World War, the “war to end all wars.” In a desire not to repeat such destruction, there was a great deal of momentum towards co-operation.

Through the Schuman Declaration, named after the French foreign minister Robert Schuman, the creation of a supranational European institution was proposed. This led firstly to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). It was also the forerunner of several other European Communities and also the European Union.

The ECSC was founded on the principle that tying former arch-enemies economically together – originally through the weapons of war of coal and steel – would assist in ending the horrors of such conflicts and deliver much-needed reconciliation. And it has proven to be highly successful in transforming a previously warring continent, tackling issues which do not respect borders, such as immigration and climate change.

The EU ensures that member states co-operate peacefully, instead of through the bloodshed so often experienced in the past. And the creation of the single market and with it the free movement of goods, capital, services and people, has also made us richer than we would have been without it. The EU has also been an inspiration for those who are fighting for the values of freedom and democracy across the world.

As we commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War this year, it does no harm in being reminded what we have enjoyed, the precious gift of more than 60 years of peace and stability. The role of the European Union in delivering this achievement must be both recognised and celebrated.

• Alex Orr is a board member of the European Movement