Coal and Steel were what divided France and Germany. Both wanted it, both had some of it, but not enough for either one. Therefore, among other things, they fought over Alsace-Lorraine, a region rich in the coal needed to produce steel. An ancient enmity realized in multiple wars cost countless lives. Through these wars, the main engines of Europe exhausted themselves. They could no longer maintain the capacity to fight. They simply ran out of people, resources, and the will to continue dying for simple material resources. Instead, along with Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy, they created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) as a means by which to share these precious resources, building off of their shared capacity to build their respective economies. Once they started sharing these resources, and building their economies back up after the utter destruction of the two world wars, they realized the more they integrated their economies, the better they would all do. This wasn’t hope, it was proven fact. Through a long process the ECSC turned into the European Economic Community, then the European Community, and most recently, the European Union. From the humble start of a single authority for Coal and Steel, eventually the countries of Europe were able to create a better life and future for all their citizens by unifying their economies. They hit hurdles in terms of creating a unified banking system to support a common currency, a unified political system, and a unified foreign policy, and it was these hurdles which sowed the seeds of disenchantment with the European experiment in the minds of some within its borders.
The last one, the foreign policy, is where I came in. In 1997 I began my study abroad in Belgium to learn about the European Union, to understand its history, institutions, and potential promise for humanity. I became a fan of May 9 (Europe Day), the European Anthem, and Robert Schuman (some call him the father of Europe). I love the idea of subsidiarity, where decisions are made at the lowest-most appropriate level, and was enamored by the idea of proliferating the ideals of the European Union to other parts of the world. I have not lost this intent. In fact, as the EU struggles under the pressure of inequality, where the benefits of integration went to the upper classes at the expense of everyone else, we can realize the lessons from this integration to create even more powerful supranational institutions for the benefit of humanity in all parts of the world.
In 2000, I launched my Fulbright, studying how NATO and the EU could work together for the security of the Trans-Atlantic Community, and the world. As I witness our current president pulling away from our allies, and the EU’s challenges with Brexit, I can’t help but feel both saddened by what’s becoming of the inexpensive Russian influence operations to destabilize the United States, the UK, NATO, and the EU. At the same time, I can see the seeds of the EU still flourishing, and want to bring these back to Europe, take them abroad, and show the world how we can all prosper from opening our economies, our borders, and our economic systems to each other, hopefully without the need to go to war first.
Today I look out and see the need for a decision by all currently in power. Will we let our world descend into the chaos of another war, led by the powers of illiberalism on one side, and those remaining to support the rule of law, economic integration, and individual freedom, on the other? I do not want to see this war, but it really looks like it’s coming.
Whether or not we end up in another world war, what happens after is what offers me, and humanity, hope. If some collection of us survive, we will need each other more than ever to solve shared problems. We will need to be focused on results, rather than philosophies, enmities, and histories, in order to improve our lives. We will be able to learn from the past to ensure we distribute the benefits of integration to all in society, rather than those only at the top. We will know where some of the landmines are (ensuring we minimize the wealth gap), so we can avoid them in our effort to rebuild, renew, and rise again as a prosperous society in which children can once again have the promise fulfilled of having better lives than their parents. We can have this worldwide, and I look forward to helping bring it to reality. Who would like to help?