22nd Oct 2016

Europe should never be 'tired' of peace

EU leaders attending a commemoration of World War One on Monday (4 August) evoked the fragility of peace and importance of learning the lessons of a hundred years ago.

Representatives from across Europe gathered in the Belgian city of Liege to mark the outbreak of fighting which began on 4 August, 1914 after Germany invaded Belgium, leading to a war that would last four years and the deaths of millions of people.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • WW1 lasted four years and resulted in around 17 million deaths (Photo: R/DV/RS)

French leader Francois Hollande’s speech contained some of the strongest sentiment, including a warning that Europe should not get “tired” of peace and references to the current conflicts on the EU’s borders and in its neighbourhood.

Speaking of Belgium's neutrality at the time, Hollande said: "today neutrality is no longer appropriate".

"How can we stay neutral when a people, not far from Europe, is fighting for its rights and territorial integrity? How to stay neutral when a civilian aircraft can be shot out of the sky? When there are civilian populations being massacred in Iraq, minorities being persecuted in Syria?," he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

His comments were in reference to Ukraine where last month a passenger plane was downed over the separatist-held eastern part of the country, killing everyone onboard. The incident came after months of unrest fermented by Moscow, and after Russia's annexation of Crimea in Spring.

Referring to the building of the EU - the "crazy idea of creating a model of cooperation and progress" - Hollande said the major risk was the return of "national selfishness".

He urged the EU to take on more of its "responsibilities" saying that "Europe must always be moving and never be weary and tired of peace."

The fragility of peace was mentioned by other leaders too.

Belgian leader Elio di Rupo noted that the trade ties between countries one hundred years ago did not prevent war from breaking out.

"Their economic interdependence didn't prevent the disaster we are commemorating today," he said.

German president Joachim Gauck said that Europe must show it has learned from the past "not only through our words, but also through our everyday actions".

“I think we should use the opportunity of World War One to recognise the catastrophe that war is as well as how easy it is to become trapped in a bubble of warlike thinking," Irish President Michael D. Higgins told the Irish Times.

The commemorations were attended by representatives from some 70 countries including the presidents of Italy, Serbia and Romania, the King of Spain, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and US Secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh.

Although initially expected to be a short war, WW1 lasted until 1918 and resulted in around 17 million deaths, of which almost 7 million were civilians.

Women shake Poland's pillars of power

Polish women are marching again this Sunday and Monday. They could succeed where the opposition, the European Commission and other protests failed, and redraw Poland's political map.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity