By Bob Harwood

Europe Points The Way


The Versailles Treaty of 1919 simply set the stage for World War II. But after two devastating wars in a generation former adversaries set out to curtail national sovereignty that a continent torn by war forever might war no more. In 1951 key countries established the European Coal and Steel Community to build a restraining interdependence on war’s materials. In 1963, while on a career assignment in the UK, I listened from ‘The Strangers’ Gallery’ of the House of Commons as Prime Minister Macmillan first proposed that Britain emerge from behind its channel moat to share this vision.

Since 1970 membership in The European Union has soared to 27 countries, accelerated by the fall of the Iron Curtain. Sovereign nations defer areas of jurisdiction to the EU Parliament, Councils or Commissions maintaining a delicate balance between national and continental interests.

In wealthier countries some of more parochial persuasion may have a bias toward nationalism or resist their larger contributions to EU coffers to aid developing members. But most are strongly supportive. On global social and economic well being indices top rankings invariably go to European nations. In their more egalitarian culture health care access is essentially universal. The EU is providing global leadership on global warming with carbon emissions per capita half those of North America’s and falling.

Efficient public transit and pedestrian friendly streets abound in urban centers as the interests of society take precedence over individual privilege. Countries have been transformed and others queue up to share the EU vision. But negotiating processes take years. All existing members must endorse each enlargement. Applicants must commit to environmental standards, rout out corruption, reform judiciaries and much more. Most have adopted the Euro as their common currency.

In September in the Balkans I spoke with many citizens of countries that had recently joined or were still in negotiation. They see a brighter, more prosperous future, free to travel, work or study in any EU country. Family members send remittances home. Decrepit infrastructures are being transformed.

Now the EU is taking its next major step forward. With the Czech Republic’s signature November 3rd all 27 of its members have now endorsed the Lisbon Treaty. The Union’s Charter of Fundamental (human) Rights will become legally binding. Europe’s Parliament will be more involved in the legislative process. There will be an increase in qualified majority voting in key Councils. A President of the European Council will serve a two and a half year term rather than the present ceremonial six month rotation among EU members. And an EU Foreign Affairs representative will better advance Europe’s positions on the world stage.

In the Global Village we have become one continent that is pointing the way to the future. It is taking a major step forward in The Long March toward fulfillment of my ultimate dream, a dream articulated 167 years ago by Tennyson. In a 12-line passage in his Locksley Hall he prophetically describes the sophisticated technologies that would first transform then wreak havoc in our world. He then captured his ultimate vision:”Til the war drums throbbed no longer and the battle flags are furled in the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World.” This vision I share, inherited from my mother and she from her father, will not be fulfilled in my lifetime. But may Europe’s lead become the role model for This World of Ours.

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