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Peace and freedom in Europe’s DNA. The integration process a balm on the wounds of history

The Schuman Declaration of May 1950 placed the pillars of a unitary process that characterized the journey leading to the unity of the Old Continent, on the aftermath of the tragedy of the war. New scenarios for the “common home”; the “interests” of Member States, identity principles, the role of citizens…

La bandiera dell'Ue nella sede del Parlamento europeo a Strasburgo

After the Second World War, Europe’s democratic, open, societies, did not surrender to threats nor to the temptation of the Social revolution characterizing its historical developments. In fact, they managed to preserve and develop their personal “appeal.” They overcame various social, economic and cultural crises and re-emerged stronger that before. Finally, they created a model of peaceful coexistence, of economic and commercial exchange and unity that despite a set of imperfections exerts a strong appeal outside of Europe. Notwithstanding its many overlapping identities – European, national and regional identities, ethnic and religious identities, with obvious relevance to this regard – some tensions have the potential of bearing fruits if appropriately managed, but if they become ideological they risk being detrimental.

The “taming” of such tensions was achieved in view of European integration with an ingenious construction based on federal principles

Based on values whose denial exacerbated the crisis of nation-States and ultimately led to the tragedies of the two world wars of the 20th century. Since the onset, and throughout all of its stages, European unification proceeded under the banner of peace. The founding document of the European Coal and Steel Community, underlying the creation of the European Union, reflects the words of the Declaration of Robert Schuman delivered on May 9 1950: “”World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts.” In the course of the decades almost all European nations participated in these creative efforts in a political unity of action, to solve their common problems together. The free, independent, sovereign nation-State became a member State, subjected to common regulations. This originated the “de facto solidarity” requested and envisaged by Robert Schuman in his Declaration. It has proved itself in many crises and ensured lasting peace. Permanent cooperation has united peoples and States, it facilitated mutual understanding and, most of all, it highlighted the interdependence of all involved parties, in critical situations and in daily matters alike. The peace-building efforts set off by this process were justly awarded the Nobel Prize. The peace that was thus founded and institutionalized in European Treaties brought unprecedented prosperity and security to citizens of the European Union across the past decades. Neighbourhood and enlargement policies furthered efforts aimed at involving also Central and Eastern countries in this process, thereby significantly contributing to the pacification and stabilization of that region.

European unification was driven not only by material interests but especially by the intangible interests of freedom and peace.

With regard to the motivations that determined in essence its creation, and with regard to political impact, it can be said that Europe’s unification is ultimately a freedom and peace movement. Above all, European integration is guided by values that ought to be understood as answers to the barbarisms and horrors perpetrated by totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. Continental unity guaranteed by freedom and peace is the core value of the integration process. Europe’s unity, understood as a value and as an objective, is determined by a set of values constituting the ethics of the unification policy and its true meaning, namely, solidarity, reconciliation, tolerance and justice. The European Union’s political and democratic development depends on its citizens’ understanding of its goals and on their ability to identify themselves with them and make them their own, namely, to relate their individual, national identities to European identity. In other words, it is a question of welcoming Europe, its unification process, the European Union, as something they own. On this depends the vitality of the European political system and of the nations that form part of it, its development capacities, its ability to take action and its potentials.

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