From: Michael Hodge, Battle Hill, Battle
Michael Phillips (European Peace is due to NATO 27 September) may be surprised to learn that I largely agree with him. To contend that “peace in Europe since 1945 has been secured through the good offices of the EU” would be misleading if that implies active intervention. It’s really the very existence of the integrated trading environment the EU provides for its member countries that is conducive to peace. That was the principle behind the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community from which the EU evolved. France and Germany would not go to war again if their industries were inter-dependent. Well they haven’t and they are unlikely to do so.
This is not to play down the role of NATO. It too began with a determination to ensure that France was not invaded from the east for the fourth time in a hundred years. It developed into a bulwark against the threat from the Warsaw Pact countries (mostly now members of the EU). Those of us who lived through those years will always be grateful for the way it protected us from a real threat of nuclear oblivion. It continues to work to keep us safe from the threats of the 21st century. There can surely be no doubt about its success and continuing value.
The EU may not have covered itself in glory in the appalling Balkan wars of the 1990s. Such a conflict was not really something it was set up to tackle, whereas NATO arguably was. The ethnic tensions within Yugoslavia, smoothed over in Tito’s time, were always going to be hard to restrain once he went.