The European Union turns 60, a celebration of shared sovereignty


What has been happening in Europe for 60 years is an astonishing lesson in building mutual strength from sharing sovereignty, and is an important example for the rest of the world.

The current assault on the European Union’s values and achievements should not detract from the underlying power of the exhilarating idea that people of different countries and languages can live together in peace.

For 60 years, the nations of Europe have chosen to pool their sovereignty in what has become the EU as they have built the shared political structures and social will that have brought the continent to the position that another major European war is unimaginable.

Such valuable dreams underpinned the work of the European diplomats in the 1950s when the Treaty of Rome was signed on March 25, 1957. The six nations of Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany, agreed to set up the European Economic Community (EEC), which had the immediate objective of integrating trade and strengthen the economies of the area, with one of its underlying political desires being to ‘lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the people of Europe’, combined with a proposal for a single market for goods, labour, services and capital across all the EEC member-states.

The power of these principles attracted many other nations to join the original six, and the EU now has 28 member-states. Ultimately, the EU is an association of sovereign nations, all of which have a say in how fast they wish to develop the EU. But rather than travel at the speed of the slowest, the EU has developed a multi-speed approach in which some nations can commit to actions like merging border controls or joining the common currency, while others do not.

The challenge facing the EU in its next decade is how to develop the political structures that can manage a closer economic union without vastly benefiting the wealthy nations and greatly harming the poorer. The Euro needs to be brought under better management and its constituent member-states need to work closer to make their joint currency more effective. But it is a point of great congratulation that the Euro crisis did not break the currency or the EU. Both survived even if they need structural reform. The only nation that has chosen to leave the EU is Britain, thus far no other nation has serious plans to leave Rome 2.0.