Keeping the peace through friendship and cooperation

EU Referendum
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Ron Clayton, (Letters, May 12), and I have previously had a friendly disagreement on how best to build peace in Europe.

After 1945 the NATO alliance was important in holding back the Soviet Union’s expansion into Western Europe.

Meanwhile in the West, enlightened politicians worked to try to ensure no repetition of two major wars in three decades.

To achieve this the major protagonists came together economically, to form the Common Market, to be joined by the mid-nineties in the European Union by almost all the countries in Western Europe, and a decade later by the countries of Eastern Europe, newly freed from Soviet domination.

The only European war in recent time has been in the former Yugoslavia which revived old conflicts, rather than focus on joining and settling historic differences within the EU.

I had the privilege of being a member of several groups in the European Parliament during the 1990s preparing for the expansion of the European Union, and attended conferences where the future members could have free and frank discussion with existing EU members.

The Poles, the Baltic representatives and Romanians felt strongly that they also needed the protection of NATO membership (unlike Sweden, Finland and Austria which had joined the EU earlier as neutral countries). They correctly foresaw that a future leader of Russia might wish to restore the Russian Empire.

In Northern Ireland, the fact that the UK and the Republic were partners in the EU was crucial to achieving the Good Friday Agreement, so that soldiers and civilians were no longer being killed.

The EU funded thousands of projects, with participants within the warring communities in the North and cross-border with the South.

The whole point of “soft” peacekeeping is to prevent the need for millions of servicemen and women, also many civilians, to die in major wars or smaller localised conflicts, by ironing out differences in a Brussels committee room rather than on a battle field.

Few politicians are saints, but most of us involved in politics are actually trying to make our world/ country/ local community a safer, better place. It is important that during the coming negotiations we remember we are talking to friends, not “opponents”.

Veronica Hardstaff

Northfield Court, S10