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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Never again? Debate to mark WW1 centenary


One century ago Europe was on the brink of one of history's deadliest conflicts that would change our world forever. MEPs commemorated the centenary of the Great War during a debate on 16 April, warning that peace and stability should never be taken for granted. They also called for more integration and stressed the importance of fighting nationalism to ensure peace, stability and security in Europe.

WW I was the first great catastrophe of the 20th century, said EP President Martin Schulz, pointing out the importance of  international cooperation.


Greek foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos, speaking on behalf of the Council, said:  "the anniversary finds Europe again confronted with situations that are testing its international political presence, from Syria to Libya and from Iran to Ukraine.”


José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, claimed the EU "provides us with ways and means of avoiding the perversity of nationalism while retaining the culture of our various countries". He defined the current conflict in Ukraine as a contrast between "a modern, open, democratic Europe" and "the old concept of a Europe which continues to think and act in categories of power, spheres of influence, diktats, mistrust and the logic of divide and conquer".


Joseph Daul, the French chair of the EPP group, reminded that WW I was an “accident caused by selfish nationalisms” and called for more integration and common polices. “If Europe was to succumb to populism and eurocepticism we would be going back through time. It would be a return to chaos and warfare in Europe."

“New groups and parties built on hatred and xenophobia are rising in Europe,” warned Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian chair of the S&D group.  “Nationalism will cost us social peace, safety, prosperity and international influence. That would be a high price for our citizens would have to pay."


Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian leader of the ALDE group, said war or the absence of it was once the only argument for European integration. However, he said :"Let's be honest about it. We will not only convince the younger generation by pointing to a horrible, but distant past. We need to explain to them how Europe and European integration is a tool for a better future."


Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the French co-chair of the Green group, urged the Parliament “to defend a community-based interest and leave behind national interests”. “European federalism is key for [Europe's] future on the global stage," he said.


Martin Callanan, the British chair of the ECR group, reminded  that unfortunately not all countries learned their lessons from World War I as they still rely on threats and military force.


The Parliament should give the signal that the EU will never support war, that peace is fragile and cannot be taken for granted in Europe, said Gabriele Zimmer, the German chair of the GUE/NGL group.


Nigel Farage, the British co-chair of the EFD group, said the idea that it was the existence of national states that led to war and that therefore they need to be abolished is a “potentially dangerous falsehood”.

Daniël van der Stoep, a Dutch MEP who is not part of any of the political groups,  said that the European Parliament had the same objectives as the out-of control leaders of the world wars, namely to create a state as powerful as possible on the European continent. "There are voters who will make clear on 22 of May that they oppose the unlawful and dictatorial occupation of their nation states."

 [europarl.europa.eu]
16/4/14

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