The European Union emerged after the Second World War with the principal aim – as evidenced by the Schuman Declaration of 09/05/1950 – to safeguard peace in the European continent. The means employed were the economic interdependence and, through it, the establishment of common interests between the Member States.
Nevertheless, economic interdependence is not sufficient, in itself, to avert military action; the European venture should neither be shrunk to its economic aspects alone, nor should we underestimate another important aspect.
I wish to clarify at the outset that I do not refer to the federal-supranational dimension, which under the present circumstances – desirable though it might be – is not realistic and could lead nowhere.
I refer to the system of the common values of the Union, as envisaged in Article 2 TEU, which is binding to all Member States. These common values are, amongst others, the respect for human dignity, freedom and democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for fundamental rights.
I argue that it is highly unlikely that the Member States, which are committed to observing the values of the Union, shall ever engage in military conflict, contrary to what happened twice during the 20th century. By abiding to the fundamental values of the Union, the Member States will decisively contribute to promoting peace in Europe.
I maintain that the cornerstone of ensuring peace in the Union has shifted from the economic interdependence to the ethical and legal rules.
The above conclusion particularly concerns the States of the former “Central and Eastern Europe”, which recently acceded to the Union. The latter have adopted, in view of their accession, important political and legal reforms, aiming to consolidate the Union’s values which constitute an indispensable part of EU membership. As a number of these States are attempting today to depart from the EU values, I am of the opinion that the Union has the power and – hopefully – the willingness to urge them to honour their commitment to the common values of the Union.
However, I do not conceal my disappointment at the fact that the United Kingdom, which founded and developed the values of democracy, the rule of law and numerous others, expressed its intention to withdraw from the European venture. I fear that we will experience such an unfortunate precedent.
Professor Vassilis Christianos, Emeritus Professor, Athens Law School