Europe was destroyed by World War Two. To rebuild and sow new stability – in the hope that peace would prevail – former enemies would work together.
The founding fathers of a new Coal and Steel pact opened the way for a future Community.
It would be based on policies of mutual trust.
Europe’s first supranational community was signed by France and West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
In 1957 the European Economic Community (EEC or the Common Market) embarked on a project of concerted integration.
Through its institutions, this would follow political, economic, energy and defence paths, which led to others.
The UK, Ireland and Denmark joined the EEC in 1973, and in 1981, newly democratic Greece. Then in 1986 came Spain and Portugal, which had recently freed themselves of dictatorship. In 1992 the community would rename itself the European Union. Austria, Sweden and Finland’s joined in 1995.
The drive for reconciliation drew a second wind with the commitment of France and Germany’s leaders, consolidating these countries as a dual economic and political motor of continuing construction.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, a symbol of division since 1961, and the so-called Iron Curtain
fell away; it had separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War since the end of World War Two.
Germany reunited the following year, as the former Soviet Union passed into history.
In 2004, Europe’s big bang enlargement added eight former Communist countries and two Mediterranean states, to be followed by two more members in 2007.
Whatever difficulties and complexities continue to challenge the European Union and its 27 members today, the venture has delivered on many early promises – for a combined population of more than 500 million people – and is admired by many more around the world.
“Javier Solana is a former Spanish foreign minister, NATO secretary general and EU high representative for foreign and security policy. He is currently a member the board of the European Council on Foreign Relations.”
Welcome to euronews:
The EU is seen as a model of democracy inside Europe, perhaps less so in the wider world. Is the Nobel Peace prize a recognition of its institutional model or for its achievements to date?”
“I think it is recognition of the role the EU has played. Remember Europe was involved in a brutal war. Remember the continents recent history. We now live in peace, freedom and stability. We have a strong collective presence in the world. We are living in difficult times, but we will get through them.”
“The award is a gift of opportunity at a time when the economic crisis is threatening its integrity. Much is said about the global responsibility for the sound management of the eurozone. What do you think, from a personal perspective?”
“Things are quite intense at the moment for everyone. The financial crisis hurts people, they suffer and we must be determined and make every effort to react quickly and efficiently. Especially the EU leaders.”
“Civil unrest is spreading in the countries hardest hit by the crisis and extremism is on the rise. Are there are real fears for the future of the EU?”
“No I don’t think so. The EU has gone through some difficult times and has managed to move forward and we will overcome this crisis. It will prepare us for life in the 21st century. A century that has changed world history and where there have been significant shifts in power. It is a multipolar world and I think the voice of the EU its values and way of doing things is a fundamental presence.”
“The Balkan War was one of the darkest pages in EU history. Brussels helped in preventing a similar conflict breaking out in the FYR of Macedonia. What other EU initiatives show the EU as a champion of human rights.”
“There are many we have been at work in Africa in difficult times and solved many problems there. We have been in Asia. Remember the peace process in Aceh, which we used to resolve historical problems in Indonesia. We have worked in other countries. I think EU foreign policy has acted as a force for good.”
“Having been at the forefront of European diplomacy for a decade has such an award been on the cards for some time?”
“To be honest, no. For me it came as a complete surprise.”