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The EU: peace, or prosperity?

In 2009, I ghost-wrote an article for Commission President Barroso on “security, freedom and wealth”, his contribution to a collection of essays edited by Karl von Wogau. It predates the Euro crisis, but I think its arguments still stand, and will stand. This is an extract from an early draft:

If one were to identify a single theme to define global preoccupations over the last decade, that theme might be ‘security’. To some, the quest for greater security has come at the expense of certain freedoms. If wealth has a role in this trade-off, it is as a divisive force, providing the means to bolster the security of a few, while its absence is seen as a root cause of insecurity for the many.

I believe that this perceived trade-off is fallacious, and that security, freedom and wealth mutually reinforce each other in a virtuous circle which can raise the quality of life for whole populations. There can be no greater demonstration of this than the European Union. The driving force behind European integration has always, first and foremost, been security. The present EU was born out of the destruction of two catastrophic wars in order to ensure that Europe never again fell prey to such devastation. We have sought to assure the future security of our continent by bringing our people together in a community which guarantees their fundamental freedoms and generates wealth. We have extended membership to our neighbours emerging from the shadow of totalitarianism, binding them into our union for the sake of our mutual security, and doing so by sharing with them our wealth while safeguarding their freedoms.

The result is a community of healthy democracies, membership of which has brought both stability and prosperity to us all. The European experience is a model for other regions around the world. Security does not have to be bought by sacrificing freedom; on the contrary, security guarantees freedom, which in turn generates wealth.

The EU’s founding fathers were committed to making it impossible that the countries of Europe should ever go to war against each other again. They saw that to do this they had to bind the economies of Europe’s core countries together in such a way that it would be impossible to mobilise them for war against each other. They also saw the importance of binding the shattered populations emerging from the nightmare of national socialism into a wider community of democracies. That this experiment was a success is self-evident: we have enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity in Europe over the last half century, and the original community of six has grown over successive enlargements to include twenty-seven countries. Many of these countries, including my own, emerged from dark periods in our history where fundamental freedoms could not be taken for granted. By joining the European Union, we sought to cement this hard-won freedom in an irreversible manner: we sought security. Our partner Member States in turn saw their own security interests served by bringing these new democracies into the union.

A crucial tool in this extension of security and freedom was the integration of Europe’s economies. The new democracies of southern and eastern Europe often lagged behind economically. Their partners had the vision to agree to huge transfers of wealth from the richest to the poorest regions in a spirit of solidarity. The resulting investments have transformed some of the poorest regions of Europe into some of the wealthiest. The knock-on effect has been to raise prosperity levels right across Europe. New wealth and new markets create jobs and opportunities for all.

Unsurprisingly, other regions have witnessed our success and sought to emulate us. However it must be emphasised that Europe’s economic success is not and has never been purely about wealth creation. While economic success is an end in itself it is also the means by which we achieve our twin goals of freedom and security; two sides of the same coin. This is the model which we offer the world.


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