I watched the news today in disbelieve. The votes had been counted when I was sleeping and the results were in. Great Britain will leave the European Union (EU) and in my opinion, that means that the youth in Great Britan got screwed; they wanted to stay in the EU and they should have, it’s their future after all.
“The have the same currency and the fight together,” that’s what a customer of mine knew about the European Union and it shocked me a little bit because there is so much more to it. It’s not just about money and trade; there is such a long history, and I remember parts of it back in the 70’s and 80′ when I still lived in Europe.
I remember what I thought about it when I was a know-it-all teenager. “That will never work, too many countries hate each other,” I said, and I meant it. World War I and World War II had left scars, countries had fought against each other, blood had been shed, people had been killed. Could all that be forgotten? Was everlasting peace in Europe possible?
I didn’t think so. I was young then, didn’t know it better, and gratefully I have been very wrong. The EU did work and it started before I was born when the Founding Fathers had a vision of everlasting peace. Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill, and many more wanted a united and prosperous Europe.
I thought I write a post today about the history of the European Union because I fear that many here don’t know. Talking about other countries and acknowledging the rest of the world, that’s not a strong suite of our TV news these days.
1945 – 1959
A peaceful Europe – the beginnings of cooperation
The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. The six founding countries are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The 1950s are dominated by a cold war between east and west.
1960 – 1969
A period of economic growth
EU countries stopped charging custom duties when they trade with each other. They also agree on joint control over food production, so that everybody now has enough to eat – and soon there is even surplus agricultural produce.
1970 – 1979
A growing Community – the first enlargement
Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom join the European Union on 1 January 1973, raising the number of Member States to nine. The EU regional policy starts to transfer huge sums of money to create jobs and infrastructure in poorer areas. The fight against pollution intensifies in the 1970s. The EU adopts laws to protect the environment, introducing the notion of ‘the polluter pays’ for the first time.
1980 – 1989
The changing face of Europe – the fall of the Berlin Wall
The Polish trade union, Solidarność, and its leader Lech Walesa become household names across Europe and the world following the Gdansk shipyard strikes in the summer of 1980. In 1981, Greece became the 10th member of the EU, and Spain and Portugal follow five years later. There is major political upheaval when, on 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall is pulled down, and the border between East and West Germany is opened for the first time in 28 years. This leads to the reunification of Germany, when both East and West Germany are united in October 1990.
1990 – 1999
A Europe without frontiers
With the collapse of communism across central and eastern Europe, Europeans become closer neighbours. In 1995 the EU gained three more new members: Austria, Finland, and Sweden. A small village in Luxembourg gives its name to the ‘Schengen’ agreements that gradually allow people to travel without having their passports checked at the borders. Millions of young people study in other countries with EU support. Communication is made easier as more and more people start using mobile phones and the internet.
2000 – 2009
The euro is now the new currency for many Europeans. During the decade more and more countries adopt the euro. 11 September 2001 becomes synonymous with the ‘War on Terror’ after hijacked airliners are flown into buildings in New York and Washington. EU countries begin to work much more closely together to fight crime. The political divisions between east and west Europe are finally declared healed when no fewer than 10 new countries join the EU in 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. A financial crisis hits the global economy in September 2008.
2010 – today
A challenging decade
The global economic crisis strikes hard in Europe. The EU helps several countries to confront their difficulties and establishes the ‘Banking Union’ to ensure safer and more reliable banks. In 2012, the European Union is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Croatia became the 28th member of the EU in 2013. Climate change is still high on the agenda and leaders agree to reduce harmful emissions. A new security policy is established in the wake of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Religious extremism increases in the Middle East and various countries and regions around the world, leading to unrest and wars which result in many people fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in Europe. The EU is not only faced with the dilemma of how to take care of them but also finds itself the target of several terrorist attacks. (read all at Europa.eu)
I decided to write this today because now I am scared. I thought BREXIT (British Exit) was a little bit like Trump. Maybe not as loud and not as obnoxious, but fuelled by nationalism, fear and hatred of others, it reminded me at Donald’s wall at the Mexican border.
If that was possible in Great Britain, what about us? I am so confident that Donald Trump can not be President of the United States. I am so convinced that we will vote wisely in November…but what if we don’t? Will we look at a similar result?
I hope my friends in Great Britain will forgive me for my very opinionated post. I have spent quite some time in Great Britain and have fond memories. I hope in the end it all will work out. Maybe it was even the right thing to leave and I don’t know what I am talking about…time will tell.