Commemorating the end of World War I – Remembering Europe

When on November 11 1918 the First World War came to an end, a conflict which to the day is also referred to as The Great War, had caused millions of casualties -civilian and military- and great suffering in societies across Europe and beyond. With many considering this war not least a result of excessive nationalism and isolationism in the years preceding it, its end however also set initial foundations for more democracy in Europe and the first-ever real international cooperation efforts which we continue to benefit from still today. According to CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger, we should recall this as today’s politics in many countries in Europe and around the world is once again increasingly shaped by authoritarian and protectionist voices.

The League of Nations, founded after World War I on the basis of internationalist ideas and along the credo ‘cooperation, dialogue and common efforts make conflicts less likely’, was in the end, for a multitude of reasons, not successful, with another -Second- War ravaging the continent and the entire globe and shattering peace to pieces once again. However, after 1945 it served to a considerable extent as a template for the creation of the United Nations, and post-1918 federalist ideas fed, in Europe, into the creation of the Council of Europe and into what later became the EU.

According to CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger, it is worth considering the intergovernmental cooperation and especially the economic and political integration which has evolved in Europe as the backbone of peace and the foundation of relative prosperity that we enjoy in our daily lives.

“Many tend lose sight of the fact that peace and cooperation are clearly intertwined. As we mark the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War, we should recall how far we have, in the end, come.”

He added: “In 1918 and again in 1945 other regions in the world were facing similar challenges as Europe -divided societies, mistrust among people, cultures and minorities. Europe’s response was cooperation and integration based on an remarkable extra will to trust each other for the common good in a situation where this was, admittedly, not easy to do. Other regions were not so lucky, and there the scars of war and conflict are visible still today. Many people there would be very glad to have something like an EU. They cannot enjoy peace, and therefore prosperity, as we do in the EU.”

Klaus Heeger concluded: “Today, we should take a step back and recall that even if the EU does have shortcomings, the response to addressing these cannot be to move towards nationalism and protectionism once again. This would be fatally short-sighted.”

Picture: Red poppy, a symbol of casualties of World War I © 2018