John Brand - Scriever
In spite of the protestations of northern European politicians, Greece may soon either opt to leave the euro or be forced to. And in spite of massive assistance and confident references to ‘firewalls’, the danger of contagion driven by frightened markets remains real.
Spain, Portugal and even Italy could be affected, and ultimately the entire euro system could unravel. Would the European Union survive? Who would dare to guess?
So much for the doomsday scenario. I have to admit that even the immense power and wisdom of the European Movement in Scotland is not likely to have much influence on the eventual outcome.
But what should we, as convinced ‘Europeans’, be thinking? What should we be telling our friends and colleagues in these extraordinary circumstances?
It seems to me that this is a time to look back to our roots. Even as the Second World War raged in Europe, far-sighted people realised that the origins of the conflict – and particularly the rise of Nazism and totalitarian government in Germany – lay firmly in the draconian and vindictive terms of the Treaty of Versailles drawn up after World War One.
By imposing appalling austerity and economic devastation on the defeated Germany, the victorious Allies had divided the European continent and sowed the seeds of the nationalism which grew into fascism.
As early as 1943 Churchill determined that the same mistake should not be made again, and immediately after the war he encouraged the development of pro-Europe movements all over the continent.
The results are well-known: the Council of Europe enshrined the principles of human rights in 1948, and the European Coal and Steel Community – designed “to make war not only unthinkable but economically impossible“ – was set up the same year, along with the College of Europe. The European Economic Community followed in 1957 with 6 members – as the European Union, it now has 27.
Why all this history? Partly because ‘those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it’. It may be inevitable – though I believe it is not – that Greece leaves the euro.
It is not inconceivable that the entire monetary system collapses: and already clear water seems to be widening between those supporting extreme austerity as the way out of the economic mess, and those who think that only economic growth can provide the answer.
The stage is set for division rather than unity. Does anyone else see the shadow of the Versailles Treaty over the real human suffering in Greece today?
Of course I am not suggesting that we are back to 1919, economically or politically – but remember that it took twenty years for Europe to travel from Versailles to the invasion of Poland.
Oh, and a worldwide economic crisis…. We should not pretend that we have grown out of conflict. Horrific evidence in the trial of Radko Mladic provides ample proof that man is still fully capable of inhumanity to man.
Good Europeans should be telling their politicians that whatever may happen in Greece, no matter which way the euro crisis is resolved, their overriding duty is to maintain the spirit and mechanisms of unity in Europe.
Since 1945 we have had the longest period of peace in Europe since the Roman Empire. We have all benefited from the massive economic, political and social benefits that unity has brought. We can continue to do so . It would be madness to lose them now.
John Brand, Chairman, European Movement in Scotland