Let us reflect on the lessons of European history

Shortly after the end of the Bosnian war I was in Sarejevo, which had just endured a four year siege by the Serbian army.

Thousands of Sarajevans had lost their lives under the constant bombardment and life was slowly beginning to return to normal.

No one ever thought that war and genocide could return to Europe after the lessons of the Second World War.

While in Sarejevo I stood on the Latin bridge, where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were shot dead by Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914, in order to achieve the goal of a independent Yugoslavia.

This event lead to the bloodshed of the First World War and indirectly to the Second World War and the deaths of tens of millions of combatants and civilians.

During this and subsequent visits to Sarejevo, when I saw at first hand the destruction of the city and the multitude of new graves in the cemeteries, it became all too clear the fundamentally destructive nature of unbridled nationalism.

Those wanting to leave the EU have learned little from history if they believe that a return to a fragmented Europe of independent states is a desirable political aim.

For all its faults and limitations the EU has provided peace and stability to Europe.

In the European wars up to the Second World War, men and women fought and died and the civilians of Europe were killed as the bombs rained down from all sides.

The cost to the UK, not just in human life, but in the resources that were spent fighting, virtually bankrupted Britain in 1945.

It is estimated the war cost Britain in the region of £90bn in 1945 or £2,700bn in today’s values.

At the end of the Second World War the foundations for the EU were laid and Winston Churchill is on record as being convinced that only a united Europe could guarantee peace by eliminating the European ills of nationalism and war-mongering once and for all.

The EU aims to help all European countries to become stable democracies with free market economies as the surest way of achieving peace and stability and it is for that we contribute approximately £300 tax per household per annum to the EU.

What happened in the Balkans in the 1990s is clear evidence that appealing to nationalism often results in unpredictable and very destructive outcomes and those thinking of voting to leave the EU would do well to reflect on the lessons of European history.

David Daniels CBE

Beech House Lane


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