"The EU is 60. We are its children"


My two grandfathers fought against the grandparents of my German friends. Every day of my childhood, on the way to school, a monument to the glory of the Canadian army that liberated my village reminded me of the devastation that the Second World War meant for my region, and for my country.

With the signature of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957, Europe decided to give itself the means to guarantee peace. To settle their disputes around a table rather than a battlefield. Or, in Maurice Schumann’s words, which my European law professor had me learn by heart, by taking “concrete measures to create real solidarity.”

I have lived these concrete measures every day of my life. Studying in Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, I spent a year abroad in the United Kingdom, through the Erasmus program, from which 3 million young Europeans have benefited to this day. When I entered the ministry of foreign affairs, the first act of the incoming cohort was to travel to Berlin to meet our German counterparts at the Auswärtiges Amt. As a diplomat at the United Nations, I participated in determining common positions with the other member-states, so that the European Union would speak as one voice, through a single negotiator. In San Francisco, I give prominence to the dynamism of French innovation and startups, which would not be possible had we not brought down the regulatory barriers that once limited business horizons and transformed the 28 national markets into a single market of 500 million consumers. In the future, I will perhaps have the chance to enter into the European External Action Service, the diplomatic body of the European Union created by the 2007 treaty of Lisbon.

Today, the peace between European nations seems obvious. The goal has been achieved with such success that we have come to find natural something which is actually an exception from a historical perspective. Beyond this feat, the nations of Europe have, by sharing their sovereignty, set themselves up to have real influence in the competitive world of today. Europe is the largest market and the greatest commercial power on the planet. It defends the interests of its member-states while acting for the common good in its contributions to progress in political, social, and environmental norms. It is one of the largest areas of freedom, with the free circulation of people, goods, services, and capital. It is the region in which wealth is the most shared, and it contributes more than half of the overseas development assistance.

Europe is not, however, exempt from challenges, like all the world’s regions. The comfort lies in seeing in European integration the origin of these challenges, whereas it is often their remedy. The anniversary of the Treaty of Rome reminds us what European development has provided for Europeans, and how it has changed the way of the world. An extraordinary – but fragile – asset, that is up to us to value and preserve. Because it is on this heritage that we have built our lives.

Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens
Consul General of France in San Francisco

JPEG @elebrundamiens

Last modified on 28/03/2017

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