Culture, Value and Identity as Elements in European Cohesion (iii): New European Values and European Zone of Peace
Dr. Garret FitzGerald (Former Prime Minister of Ireland) and J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM)
There is another matter I wish to draw attention to. It is a second quite different and potentially powerful element that we Europeans share in common, namely a new combination of international relations values that have developed in Europe in the past half-century and which markedly differentiate our continent from other parts of the world, including in particular the United States. This is a positive consequence of a pan-European reaction to 450 years of attempts at dominance over one European state over others. A conscious and deliberate rejection of perverse and deeply negative elements of European history.
Let me look at some of these new values, first of all a deep commitment to international law and the United Nations, leaving the US in clear difficulty. For instance, an example when President Reagan asked Margaret Thatcher to support the Israeli bombing of the PLO in Tunis, she reacted negatively. As she told me at the time, she said to the President. "President, what would you say if I bombed the Provos [Provisional IRA] in New York? " She was rather pleased with that analogy. As a European she had a deep sense of international law, which an issue like that actually held her back from her instinctive sympathy and desire to cooperate with the United States. That sense for international law is a very power factor in, of course, the UN. Whereas in America, it has not the same degree, as we saw with the rejection of the World Court decision on the mining of Nicaraguan ports, something a European country would never have done. Occasionally, European countries may try to wriggle out of international law or even evade it, but they will not deny it. There is a fundamental difference there.
Second, the system of monitoring of international human rights introduced in 1950 which transcends national sovereignty. The Strassbourg court is something unique and was of course a huge and total rejection of a history of centuries of growing emphasis on national sovereignty and the rights of constitutional law in those countries. Associated with that is the absolute rejection of capital punishment. There are no states or territories within the European Union which practice capital punishment. This is also unlike the United States where capital punishment is still practiced.
Also, the acceptance and creation of an international criminal law organization. This is also something the United States has rejected and indeed they are trying to pursue some countries to go against the European consensus.
The creation of a zone of peace within western Europe is above all the greatest achievement of the European Union. This is a zone of peace that has spread to most of Eastern Europe and the Ukraine. It is also, I believe, in the process of spreading to the Balkans.
This zone of peace is really something quite extraordinary. When in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, I must say I had fears. I worried that the old conflicts that dominated the first half of the 20th Century and had led to wars and conflicts in these countries would once again erupt. That Hungary and Romania would once again dispute Transylvania. That Poland and the Ukraine would again have trouble over Lithuania. None of this happened because those countries knew that they pursued such a course, they would not be able to gain access to the European Union. So, the influence of the European zone of peace spread automatically to these countries beyond our broader and to the whole of Europe.
I think the process is spreading and it will eventually reach Russia and hopefully in time head southwards.
To another very important area that we tend to ignore. The creation, or the substitution of, civil development aid for colonial exploitation. The fact that we all accept on a public level, a popular level, a government level that we should transfer resources from the rich to the poor instead of drawing resources from the poor to the rich that is another reversal of history that we rather take for granted.
Finally, a concept that is potentially of huge important for the rest of the world. This corpus of European values, arising out of our recognition during 1945-50 that there is only one way to go, if we are to reject the past and avoid the final destruction of Europe. That is the route of cooperation and the value system we have created. This value system is certainly European, but I believe it is compatible with the rest of the world, although it is still not accepted in the United States. This is a very powerful factor and if we can get people more conscious of what we have achieved in that regard, more conscious of what we share together and what differentiates us from other democratic countries, then this is something that high culture can build upon in trying to bring Europe together.
I think the emerging European value system and our heritage of high culture together proves a basis upon which to try to build a European sense of identity which we need as our democratic foundation.
Profile: Garret FitzGerald
He served three times as Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach), heading two coalition governments, from July 1981 to February 1982, and from December 1982 to June 1987 as the seventh Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland. He earlier severed as Irish Foreign Minister.
He was born on 9 February 1926. After studying economics and law at University College Dublin, he lectured (1959-73) in political economy at his alma mater. He was first elected to the Irish parliament (Dail) in 1969 as a member of the Fine Gael. He was minister of foreign affairs (1973-77), then became party leader and subsequently prime minister in 1981 as a result of a coalition with the Labour party. Although defeated in early 1982, FitzGerald regained power later that year and was again prime minister from late 1982 to 1987, when election losses caused him to resign as party leader. A moderate nationalist, he was the driving force behind the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985.
He retired from parliament in 1992 and since then he has written a popular weekly column every Saturday in The Irish Times and been involved in many international activities. He came out of retirement to campaign for a yes vote in the second Nice Referendum, held in 2002.
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The above speech was made at Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs) in London on 28 January 2005. It formed part of an event called Europe: United or Divided by Culture which was organized by The European Cultural Foundation (UK National Committee), the Chatham House European Programme and International Intelligence On Culture.
This is the third part of a four-part article. The previous part can be found here.