Usually when political life resumes in Brussels after the summer break the focus is on new initiatives, urgent or standing matters. This year, 1 September coincides with a dangerous reality. Over the summer the heated exchanges between North Korea and the US have raised fears of a new global confrontation. European governments and the European Union are looking for partnership with China and if possible in this case with Russia. Russia doesn’t seem too willing to intervene on North Korea, however, but hope remains that the forces of reason will prevent Kim and Trump from going too far and launching a new global conflict. It seems that the risk of such a confrontation hasn’t been this real for the several decades.
What is the answer? After all, the proposal to raise “defence” expenditure to 2 per cent of GDP would if adopted re-launch a new arms race. NATO is studying concrete scenarios of nuclear armament in Europe. This would undermine the agreements reached more than 20 years ago leading to pacification following the fall of the wall and democratic developments in the countries that have joined the European Union since then. Common external policies with common approaches and diplomatic solutions are needed in times of rising nationalism and protectionism. They are the clearest example of when Europe needs to speak with a voice of reason and develop deeper cooperation in its Common Foreign and Security Policy.
Workers’ movements and civil society have historically backed the social and the Peace question, not only in the aftermath of the Second World War, but also in times of social imbalance within and between the member states. The winners and losers of an arms race are well known and everything must be done to prevent a confrontation, above all to prevent those leaders in the countries concerned who have “learned to love the bomb” - although not inspired by Kubrick’s film.
We expect the President of the European Commission to focus on the question of War and Peace, and the European Peace Policy agenda, in his next speech on the State of the Union. Sustainability is also vital, as the driver of sustainable social, economic and political development, isolating all those political forces at EU and member state level who think that shrinking civic and democratic space is a way to consolidate their power.
Peace is more than the absence of war and can be best guaranteed by a massive investment in our liberal democracy. After all civil society and its organisations are the result of the famous Aufklärung, enlightenment or lumières. Their strength does not only rely in their capacity to react, but in their capacity to anticipate and to mobilise – these days against a new arms race!
This editorial has appeared in the Weekly Round Up of 1st September 2017.
* 1 September 1939 is considered the start of the Second World War, when Nazi-Germany invaded Poland. As of the end of the War this day stands for “Antikriegstag” in German or Anti-War Day.
© Photo source: https://www.pablopicasso.org/dove-of-peace.jsp