By Pat Dial
On May 9, Europe Day was commemorated in Guyana and other parts of the world. Though the event was accorded some media notice, the COVID-19 problems and the overarching political impasse tended to absorb most media attention and Europe Day was not given the emphasis it deserved.
Europe had been fighting its civil wars for centuries but such wars were among armies and did not much affect the civilian populations as happened from the end of the 19th century and especially in the 20th century.
From the turn of the 19th century, nations over the continent began cultivating narrow nationalisms and the states, using the modern advances of the technology of information and appropriate changes in the education system stimulated the growth of adversarial attitudes and feelings of difference among the nations of the continent.
These narrow nationalisms manifested themselves in World Wars I and II where the combatant nations aimed to annihilate each other since wars had now become total wars. These two World Wars almost destroyed European civilization and Europe lost its empires and the continent’s social and economic life was almost annihilated.
The massive desolation and loss of life and the widespread suffering over the continent led Europeans to be again conscious of their common identity and from being implacable enemies, they began to slowly empathize with the plight of each other and so on May 9, 1950 when Robert Schuman, Foreign Minister of France, proposed the establishment of an independent coal and steel authority to control the coal and steel resources of France and Germany, this became an acceptable proposal.
This authority was designed to prevent wars between the two countries and this aim was accepted as realizable. Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg (BENELUX) agreed to join the authority and the Treaty establishing it was signed in the next year -1951. Since 9th May was the date of Robert Schuman’s proposal, that date was commemorated as the birth anniversary of the European Union.
The five states – France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg formed the European Community. The Community began to accept other European states as joining members, especially the Eastern European states, which were able to join when the Soviet Union disintegrated.
At the same time, the Community evolved into a more tightly knit union by a series of treaties until today we have the European Union, which consists of 29 countries.
The European Union has always had a close relationship with the Guianas and West Indian islands since, in a broad historical sense, they were once colonies of Europe. After Independence, these former colonies kept close relations with their mother countries, which continued to assist them.
The European Union, as a supranational entity, also gave economic and social assistance to the Caribbean states.
In the case of Guyana, the EU Ambassador, His Excellency Fernando Ponz-Canto has been particularly warm and generous and Guyanese people are pleased that such an able and accomplished representative had been accredited to their country.
Of recent years, EU has granted Guyana sizable and helpful social and economic assistance: A project to provide protective services for persons at risk of suicide and a project to protect the rights of Indigenous communities.
EU also provided $2.4 billion to improve sea and river defences and $5.5 billion to help the sugar industry to improve its competitiveness and to diversify. They have also launched a project to train and equip inter-agency units to identify, search and interdict all forms of illicit maritime trafficking.
Most recently, the EU has granted the Caribbean 9M Euros to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EU’s generous help to Guyana has been significant and sizable and when Guyana celebrated Europe Day, it was the celebration of the birth anniversary of a valued friend.
The Caribbean was among the first colonies of Europe after Columbus discovered the Americas and they grew with Europe. And over the centuries when peoples from Africa, Asia and all parts of Europe made the Caribbean their home, they also identified themselves with Europe and empathized with the great achievements of the continent.
Europe’s massive contributions to the Arts and Sciences and its creation of a more humane and internationally connected world have been a unique contribution to human history. Having achieved the pinnacle of material civilization, Europe is now enrichening and strengthening its civilization by exploring the life of the spirit.
When we celebrate Europe Day, we are not only celebrating the birth of the EU but are also celebrating the incomparable contribution Europe has made and is still making to the world.
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