The anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), the day in 1945 when all the forces of Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies. Adolf Hitler had committed suicide eight days previous. Europe lay in ruins, but was to be rebuilt in the decades to follow. Today, the newly elected French president, Emmanuel Macron, observed a commemoration of VE Day in Paris. Relief has been expressed at his election, as Marine Le Pen was all for leaving the European Union. However, we need to pay heed to the vote-share of Ms Le Pen, 35%. That is a substantial percentage of the French populace who would be prepared to leave the EU.
Is the EU then such a fantastic institution? No, it is very flawed, and is in need of an all-encompassing overhaul. Maybe it's too big, maybe its bureaucracy holds too much power without really being held to account. The reason why people do not wish to see the EU fail lies in history. In 1957, the Benelux countries, Germany, France and Italy established a free-trade association for coal and steel, which later grew into the European Economic Community, and since 1992 the EU. It came in the wake of two World Wars, which were sparked off by nationalistic fervour and competition between states. Western Europe has known peace for 72 years, although we have seen a vicious war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which also should serve as a warning and reminder. The nationalistic talk of Marine Le Pen, railing against the perceived German hegemony, could so easily lead to renewed conflict. We already have to be watchful of Europe's eastern border, with Putin's Russia. We don't need to go looking for conflict within.