This Friday, former World War II allies will mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day. All of them has come a long way since 1944, and especially France. Now these countries have to remember that the factors that brought them together to cooperate during World War II and immediately thereafter, are still here with us.
Cooperation instead of fighting and killing: the new European norm
1. The war almost erased France from the map in 1940. The General De Gaulle managed to revive it intellectually, morally and politically, to make France part of the winning team, and a key actor of the new international system. It was all De Gaulle’s almost personal political performance. Then, of course, France used the momentum to create a relatively strong economic and military force worthy of a great power.
2. However, the key to the new European balance of power was the combination of the French political and the German economic power. Ideally, the same would be needed in the contemporary EU, too. The German reunification made Germany stronger than before, but that does not really explain why France is so passive and why President Hollande refuses to lead the continent, hand in hand with Germany (hint: politics and ideology).
3. Russia is an exception in the winning group of allies (and a good example of the ‘ennemy of my ennemy is my friend’ principle). But the presence of President Putin will be a good occasion for Europen leaders to send a powerful message to Europeans. I’ll get back to this issue later.
4. It is still better to sit down together and reach a compromise than to go to war. Sadly, the generation that remembers the war is about to die, and fewer and fewer people remember the main reason why De Gaulle, Adenauer and other European leaders decided to work together instead of going to war against each other. However, we should be aware of the fact that the peace we have had in the last few decades is not the rule of European history. It is the exception, and we still have to work hard to keep it, each and every day.
5. Nobody is interested in a Europe where the strongest rules. Militarily speaking, nobody would be able to do that, anyway. Economically, just to say another banality, European countries are not competitive aloneanymore. But together, they are a huge market, a huge economic power, able to compete even with the U.S. and other rising powers.
6. Of course, the cohesion of Europe is an issue to debate. But know that everyone has a share in creating a coherent Europe: big, middle and little countries, net contributors and net recipients alike. I am not talking about federalism, but about contemporary debates: social tourism, migration, anti-Schengen campaigns, nationalisms and EU sceptical populistms. But in order to be able to solve these problems, we need to be aware of the fact that cooperation is still in our best interest.
The alternative is war
The weekend is going to be a great occasion for European leaders to remind Europeans that the alternative of compromise and cooperation is war, to remind Europeans of the reason why De Gaulle invited Adenauer to spend two days in his very private cottage in rural France.
As an illustration, they will have Vladimir Putin and the situation in Ukraine at hand. They only have to point at them, and say: see.