This Bank Holiday weekend we have celebrated VE Day – Victory in Europe, and the end at last, in May 1945, of our continent’s most devastating and brutal war.
We especially remember those who fought so hard and valiantly to save us from the menacing march of the ferocious Nazi war machine.
Yes, we won, but only with the combined might of all our Allies working together, and even then, victory was not assured.
The price of peace was many tens of millions dead and injured; lives ruined and a continent ravaged.
We rightly celebrate and remember the end of the war and the enormous efforts expended by brave men and woman to achieve our triumph.
After war, peace is precious.
But more precious is lasting peace. The avoidance of war.
The ability to co-exist, to live with each other, instead of killing each other.
The European Community – later to be called the European Union – was started in the aftermath of the Second World War for that one purpose alone.
To find ways for Europeans to build our continent together, peacefully, constructively, and with respect for human life.
For hundreds of years, Europe was a continent packed tight with countries more used to resolving their differences through violence, war and subjugation.
The planet’s two world wars originated right here on our continent. Europe had to find a new way or face its self-destruction.
As a peacemaker, the European Union has been a remarkable success.
It has helped to ensure amicable, placatory and bloodless co-operation between countries that, in the recent past, were more prone to hostilities.
Whilst NATO has protected us from external threats, it’s the EU that has helped prevent its member states from fighting each other.
Not once has a shot been fired between EU countries.
That’s something we take for granted now, but not so long ago, citizens of European countries would have been amazed that such a goal could be contemplated, let alone achieved.
The EU may not be perfect – it most certainly isn’t. It may need many reforms – it most certainly does. But just remember what Europe was like before the EU existed.
This weekend, we celebrated the end of war. But let’s also celebrate the endurance of peace.
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