The European people suffered a lot in the two world wars, and hence in the post-1945 period it was only to be expected that there would be yearning for avoiding conflict and war within Europe. To the extent that the unity of Europe in the form of the European Union (EU) is a manifestation of this yearning, this should be welcomed by all peace-loving people of world. Troubled regions like South Asia and West Asia can learn much from this basic idea. The idea of European Union becomes even better if this can be used to maintain certain norms of human rights and democracy in all member countries, apart from facilitating economic cooperation. Of course the big capitalists have their own notions of exploiting a larger and more consolidated market, sometimes at the cost of smaller entrepreneurs and less prosperous members, but at the same time there are also some important benefits for common people as well in such a union.
This provides a model for progress and EU countries have been able to progress in conditions of better stability and peace compared to several other parts of world.
Not all has been well in Europe of course, as evident in the highly unjust and violent dismemberment of former Yugoslavia, a very distressing episode which could have been avoided by better statesmanship.
Even leaving aside this tragic episode, the ethical record of Europe in the post-war period is marred by continuing terrible violence and injustice against former colonies till a very late stage, collusion in horrible violence against several third world countries and acting within an imperialist paradigm on matters like trade and patent regimes. On increasingly important environmental issues some good initiatives have come from Europe, but so has a lot of green-washing. Opposition of European people to GM crops has been helpful for the entire world, but the reverse side is that some of the GM and seed giant companies located here have been behaving in very harmful ways.
Even within Europe, unity and integration of Europe is hardly complete, as about one-third of the countries of Europe are not members of EU. This includes the most populated, the most resource rich and heavily armed country within Europe—Russia. This would not matter so much as long as relations are friendly, but relations with Russia have deteriorated rapidly and are just now in a stage of high risk. The paradox is that most European countries and even more so most European people are not in favor of relations with Russia being so hostile and yet this situation exists. Another aspect of this situation at present is that most people of Europe want to buy cheaper Russian gas but due to US pressures have to buy much more expensive fuel from other sources particularly the USA.
This brings us to the other important factor that most members of EU, except perhaps four, are also members of leading military alliance NATO. The undisputed leader of NATO is US followed by its closest ally Britain (not an EU member now). While the EU also has its own defense system in the form of Common Security and Defense Policy, NATO is much bigger and dominates military matters.
As NATO leader the USA never wanted European countries to have friendly relations with Russia and in recent times it has used the Ukraine crisis and the sanctions regime (not to mention the Nord Stream sabotage, in itself a very grave issue) related to it to widen the gulf between Russia and most European countries. Hence the relations of most other countries of Europe with the most populated, most resource rich country as well as the biggest military power of Europe are captive to what is dictated by a non-European power, the USA.
It so happens that the more or less openly stated goal of the USA is to dominate the world and in this context it has ambitions to ensure the downfall/subjugation of not just Russia but also of potentially (if not already) its biggest rival China. This quest for dominance by any single country of a unipolar world is the biggest threat to world peace.
With the USA increasingly adopting an aggressive ‘with us or with them stance’ and striving to push NATO in the direction of its goal of dominance, in a situation of most (except four) EU members also being members of NATO, they stand in danger of being used as supporting instruments of a US led quest for world dominance, a quest that is likely to be very violent, will involve wars, may even lead to the third world war and a nuclear war. This will also be a very highly unethical quest.
This of course makes a complete mockery of the EU trying to position itself as a leading ethical force or a force of peace, justice and human rights. Hence a very basic decision that EU has to take is whether it will follow the US in its quest for dominance (of course only as a junior partner), or whether it will assert itself as an independent force with its own ethical values.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, A Day in 2071 and Earth without Borders.