It is sometimes claimed that the EU’s biggest achievement, and indeed it’s raison d’etre, it’s very reason for being, is the prevention of war in northern Europe.
I would contend this claim, for the very simple fact that the cause of war is not the presence or absence of political or trade union. The primary cause of war are the actions driven by human desires. Desires such as the hunger for power and influence, for scarce resources, and even the desire for revenge.
It goes without saying that peace and cooperation are eminently desirable qualities in international relations. I fully believe that everyone who are proponents of the European Union desire peace, cooperation, good relations, trade, and prosperity. And whether you are pro-EU or anti-EU, the vast majority of us abhor war and international conflict.
Here’s the issue: in order to effect or avert a result, we have to sufficiently understand the root cause of said result. To politically unify European nations in order to effect peace and avert war, is to claim that the cause of war is the absence of political union. But political union is neither sufficient or even a necessary condition of peace. It has nothing to do with preventing war. On the other hand, political union places very much power into the hands of the few. As the saying goes, “Power tends to corrupt…”
A strong man flexing his (political) muscles is going to affect many people. When great power is concentrated in the hands of the few, the mistakes of the few will have very widespread consequences. Whether or not these mistakes are deliberate is irrelevant to the damage caused – someone who means well but who is misguided can affect very many people. In international relations, a political mistake by a very powerful man will affect many people. And political mistakes by a few powerful men can easily cause war.
And yet, we have not had war amongst any EU state since the inception of the European Union or its predecessor. What might the cause of this be? I suspect many of you already know this answer. It is the very same reason there have not been any significant wars in any developed country elsewhere in the world: human progress.
The progress of technology has allowed human beings to communicate and travel on an unprecedented scale. It has led to fluidity of international trade and human relations. In a globalised world, it makes no sense to wage war to secure a specific market or resource – there is a huge market in the wider world who is able take your place should you decide to not play fair. And incidentally, there is much greater wealth and influence can be gained through trade (whether or not such a practice is ethical is a different discussion – we are currently discussing the causes of war/peace).
To claim that the EU prevents war in northern Europe is to ignore the fact that the march of human progress has given us greater peace in the whole world (of which European nations are obviously a part of). This is not to say that world peace has been achieved, of course not. But it has meant that war and conflict are now very much reduced, so that armed conflict is now considered an anomaly, rather than a commonplace occurrence as is the case of past millennia.
On the other hand, what is the EU causing in terms of global relations? Fractious relations within the EU as economically stronger member states (Germany) bully economically weaker member states (Greece). Rising global tensions as the powerful EU infringe on the borders of the mighty Russia. The concentration of economic power as the free movement of people has facilitated the flow of valuable human resources into already economically-prosperous cities and countries. The rise in societal tensions as cultures with different practices and values rub up against each other in close proximity.
The prevention of war is encouraged by fostering social integration, by allowing people to naturally come together by choosing to interact such as through travel or through trade. It is not encouraged by imposing political integration, which is the forcing together of people regardless of whether or not they want to come together. One is voluntary and natural. The latter has to be enforced politically, economically, or sometimes militarily. Only one is sustainable.
Please don’t let the fear of war scare you into supporting a fundamentally flawed political institution.