19 May 2017

Keeping the peace in Europe

In the previous post, I disagreed with Emmanuel Macron’s remark that “Europe is what has enabled us since 1945 to preserve peace … in our continent” rather than NATO. This view is not unique to the President of France, for example, as expressed in this tweet, much liked and retweeted, from Andrew Stroehlein* on Europe Day:

But if we zoom in on the period since the end of the Second World War in 1945, something is not quite right:

NATO was established in April 1949, the date apparently being staked out for the EU flag. The latter was designed in 1955 and adopted by the Council of Europe in December that year. In 1985 it was also taken up for the European Communities from which the EU inherited it in 1993. The Council of Europe**, which like NATO was founded in 1949, is distinct from the EU and aims to uphold human rights, democracy, rule of law in Europe and promote European culture. No doubt it can be regarded in doing so as contributing to the preservation of peace, whether its existence is sufficient for it is another matter. Something similar could be said to apply to the first of the pan-European institutions which subsequently led to the EU, the European Steel and Coal Community, founded in 1951. 

Meanwhile NATO, to quote, possibly apocryphally, its first Secretary General, General Ismay, got on with its job: "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".

*Stroehlein is European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, based in Brussels.

**Not the European Council which is part of the EU, as is yet another body, the Council of the European Union.

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