Winston Churchill wanted to build a strong European Union. Do the British now want a strong Europe?

Churchill-pictureWinston Churchill, twice British Prime Minister (1940-45 and 1951-55) is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the European Union. When the 2nd World War had ended he was one of the first to call for the creation of “something like the United States of Europe. He did it in a speech to the students at the University of Zurich in 1946 and made such call “to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom”, he said. “We must build a kind of United States of Europe.” Why? To prevent the atrocities of two world wars from ever happening again, and to avoid egocentric nationalisms which were the causes of the wars.

Two years later in The Hague, in 1948, 800 delegates from all European countries met at a big Congress of Europe, with Churchill as honorary president. The following step was the creation of the Council of Europe on 5 May 1949. Winston Churchill attended its first meeting. He was even in favor of a European army. As we can read on the website of the EU, Winston Churchill became a driving force behind European integration and an active fighter for its cause.

Churchill’s name figures on the list of the “Fathers” of Europe together with Konrad AdenauerJoseph BechJohan Willem Beyen,  Alcide De Gasperi , Walter HallsteinSicco MansholtJean MonnetRobert SchumanPaul-Henri Spaak and Altiero Spinelli. They had all the same ideal of a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe. A united Europe was the only way.

“We need to show the same political courage and vision of Winston Churchill,” said José Manuel Durão Barroso at a Special Churchill Lecture at the University of Zurich on 8 November 2013, titled ‘From 1946 till today – a European success story – Why leadership matters’. Churchill, a committed and far-sighted British-European, followed up, notably with the Hague congress in May 1948, which was convened with the specific objective of promoting a united Europe and was attended by eminent personalities from across the political spectrum, such as Monnet, Adenauer, Spaak, Spinelli, de Gasperi, de Madariaga and de Rougemont, to name but a few of these ‘founding fathers’”, Mr. Barroso said. “Sixty seven years after Churchill’s Zurich speech, Europe is now reconciled and reunited. Europeans are bound together through their shared values and principles. And the great historic novelty is that this was achieved not by wars and force but through a ‘choice for Europe’ and through a supranational framework, with common institutions exclusively obliged to uphold the European interest and safeguard our founding values.” … “We should be inspired by him (Churchill)” Barroso finished his speech saying” We should look beyond immediate issues and agree on a long-term vision for Europe.”

Churchill contributed together with the other fathers to lay the foundations of the EU. If Churchill would be here now, would he vote to leave the EU, his “European family”, betraying his ideas? Or would he try to make the EU stronger together with the other European leaders? Brexit is an escape. It was not Churchill’s character to escape from the problems.

 


When Britain liked Europe and Europe liked Britain

I was 9 years old when the British troops entered my city, Brussels, and freed it from the German occupation. I remember the tanks of the 30th Corps coming into my street and my neighbors welcomming the British soldiers. For us it was the beginning of the end of World War II.

I remember me visiting the British soldiers with my friends in their tents near my home. And the soldiers giving us cookies. And British trucks distributing white bread to the people in the streets. (We hadn’t seen any white bread during the German occupation).

Many homes invited a “Tommy” (as we called the British soldiers) for lunch or dinner. Same did my parents. These “Tommies” were prepared to sacrify their lives for us.

My children and grandchildren have passed their vacations in Britain, to learn english and make friends. English is an important, maybe the most important language in Europe and in the world. All European schools are teaching English.

Now UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a referendum, on Thursday 23 June, whether Britain should remain in the European Union or leave. A democratic decision, of course.

But I would feel sad if the UK decided to leave. Europe would be broken. An Eurotunnel was build tu connect it. Should we then learn another language instead of English?

There would be two losers: Great Britain and Europe.

We should not forget the reasons that moved Europeans to build a United Europe.