In a forthright statement, yesterday Queen Elizabeth called for unity in Europe. Addressing German president Joachim Gauck, she said:
The United Kingdom has always been closely involved in its continent. We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it … that remains a common endeavour.
She did not explicity mention the EU, referring instead to Britain and Germany:
[which] have achieved so much by working together … I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead
But the timing isn’t coincidental. It came on the eve of the EU summit in which Cameron is to discuss his EU reform proposals and the upcoming EU referendum.
This isn’t the first time Queen Elizabeth II has shown her pro-European colours. In 1992, she addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg and her remarks were littered with high praise for the Union (then called the European Community). Here’s some of the highlights:
As I look around me in this ever more important Parliament of Europe, I believe that members of Parliament, and all Europeans, can be proud of what has been achieved.
The European family contains diverse personalities. In this, and in its need for tolerance and mutual support, it is like any family.
By your deliberations and well-contested decisions you reinforce the work of national parliaments, I welcome your contribution to European democracy.
Beyond her broad statements of support, the Queen also said a number of things that resonate just as much today as they did then. On the then-raging conflict in Yugoslavia, she said:
We cannot afford to be complacent. War has not been banished from the European continent.
Given the current situation in Ukraine and on Europe’s doorstep in the south, this comment holds true today as much as it did then.
Of particular relevance to the ongoing EU reform debate and Cameron’s recent crusade to remove the reference to ‘ever-closer union’ from the treaty preamble (which, by the way, was agreed by John Major just months before the Queen addressed Parliament), she said:
Decisions need to be taken as close to the citizen as is compatible with their success but at the same time we have to strengthen the ability of Europeans to act on a European basis where the nature of a problem requires a European response.
This fits perfectly with what Major negotiated at Maastricht, as the full sentence reads:
an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity
And finally, in her remarks Queen Elizabeth II quoted a Lord Salisbury speech from 1888, which is worth repeating today ahead of the EU referendum. He said:
We are a part of the Community of Europe, and we must do our duty as such.