Europe and the Europeans: An International Discussion

Europe and the Europeans: An International Discussion

Europe and the Europeans: An International Discussion

Europe and the Europeans: An International Discussion

Excerpt

The subject that faced the Rome and Strasbourg meetings was less academic and more actual than might be suggested by these arguments over the definition of Europe. As a result of the war and of the relative decline in the position of all European powers except Russia which was so marked a feature of the post-war world, the theme of European unity which had made its appearance at intervals ever since the creation of the modern European states-system acquired a new urgency. Even without any clear understanding of what a united Europe would embrace or what kind of institutions it would require, it was felt that only by pooling their resources could the countries of non-Communist Europe at any rate follow a constructive path. But if unity were to be achieved it would be necessary to overcome the legacy of centuries of division and even hostility between the main national groups. For this a great campaign of public education would be demanded and this would have to concentrate upon demonstrating what these national groups had in common and the extent to which the European cultural heritage was a single whole.

In other words, the discussions, though they might take an entirely practical and even material direction, could not be complete or successful without an exploration of something wider and more enduring, since permanent institutions could only flourish upon a foundation of common attitudes and principles freely accepted. It is in the light of this situation, felt by all to be serious and by many to be critical, that the arguments presented here must be judged.

Europe may indeed defy attempts at definition and provide when examined more evidence of diversity than of unity. It is nevertheless a fact that the effort at creating new institutions embodying the idea of European unity is an aspect of our own times. It is something which people believe in, and are willing to work for; and such people are more numerous than they were in the inter-war years or during the period that divides the First World War from the French Revolution -- the great dividing line between the modern and the contemporary. They . . .

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