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A view from Ypres

Travelling back from Brussels to Yorkshire by car this time, we decided to go via Ypres (or Ieper, to give its proper name).

It’s always moving to visit the area, with its countless war cemeteries, but never more so than on this 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The Menin gate (more properly ‘Menen gate’), where the names are recorded of thousands of fallen soldiers whose bodies were never found, attracts many visitors — especially for the daily rendering of the Last Post. Among recent visitors leaving a wreath were two school groups from Yorkshire: Beckfoot school in Bingley, and Easingwold school near York, both of which I’ve visited.

There is one new feature since I last visited: the little monument that marks last month’s visit of the European Council, including the presidents and prime ministers of all 28 EU countries. This initiative by President Van Rompuy was a powerful symbol of how far we’ve come. The EU was founded on the principle of ‘never again’ (the most frequent comment in the visitors books at the cemeteries). It has ensured that, while we still have rows, they are across a debating chamber or a negotiation table, not by slaughtering each other on the battlefields.

The EU was rightly awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2012 for its work in this regard. But events just outside the EU in Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere remind us of how precious an achievement this is.

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14 Comments

  1. IOs the Ukrainian civil war just happening out of the blue, doesn’t the EU bear some responsibility ? Or did Nuland really elbow the EU completely out of the way ?

  2. The EU may have had a founding principle of “Never again”, but this is just another example of the EU not living up to the hype.

    It continues to “mess” about with nation states, encouraging with promises of money – encouraging the idea of more Arab Springs.

    It’s a shame that there isn’t just one EU president that could be tried for creating the chaos in Ukraine, for without the EU stepping on Russias toes and without the fiscal encouragement to Ukraine, then we wouldn’t now be seeing the loss of lives, and one plane would still be in service!

    The self important people within the EU, that have too much time to meddle, imagine they have found the magic formula to stop wars and control all strife at the same time – they haven’t.

    The real crime is that the EU elites insist on imposing their cranky vision of how the world should be run on all and sundry, no matter the result, no matter how many people die.

    • Well Bryan, I just looked through a bunch of EU news sites and not one mention of the extreme right fighting in Ukraine. It’s like they don’t exist. Nothing to see here.

      “A Human Rights Watch report released last week found evidence that “strongly suggests” Grad and mortars attacks which killed at least 16 civilians in Donetsk and its suburbs were launched by government forces, but noted that its on the ground investigations covered only a very small number of documented cases.

      “Both sides have artillery weapons, including Grad and mortars, and could face war crime charges under international humanitarian law if they don’t stop using these weapons in populated areas knowing that it is killing civilians,” Ole Solvang, one of the authors of the HRW report, told VICE News.”

      It took just a few short weeks for it to degenerate into both sides slaughtering civilians and torturing each other. No surprises there. I guess it will end with ethnic cleansing.

  3. Good morning,

    I am not British. Therefore I cannot be a member of the Labour Party. I could be a socialist but I am not. But when I read your posts, Richard, I know we are not two “islands” but two “parts of the Continent”, that we belong to “the Main”.
    “Never again”, not “Business, business, nothing but business. ”
    Under the influence of the “European spirit” rows and disputes will eventually find a solution – even if it takes time, too much time, sometimes. The splitting of Tchecoslovakia was bloodless, the “Troubles” in Northern Irland, Kosovo vs Serbia are other examples.
    Had Ukraine been under such “spirit”, solutions might have been tabled to suit the separatists. But far too many Ukrainians are under the influence of a former (?) top ranking KGB official.

  4. Well, it’s true that an unusually long period of peace has been known by Europeans, by and large, and for that we should be grateful whatever the reason.

  5. Northern Ireland is one of the few things which, despite being widely hated in Britain, people will willingly credit Tony Blair with, I don’t see what the EU has to do with it.
    US and UK are now total surveillance states, KGB are old news now in comparison – or did Germany not just decide to go back to using hack proof mechanical typewriters because the NSA is, in Merkel’s words, “like the STASI” in whch Putin got his early career ?

    • Tony Blair? Of course!
      But what could he have achieved if Éire was Russia and the separatists in the North, aka the IRA, had been supported and armed by Putin?

      • I don’t know. The IRA did used to smuggle in weapons from abroad.

        The USA, or NATO if you want, has (they claim) tried regime change and democracy promotion in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria – and all these places have become sectarian disaster areas with terrorists proliferating all over the place.
        Are we supposed to think that this time, in Ukraine, it will be different ?

    • I must confess, John, I am not that keen on neo-Nazis whatever side they are fighting for….
      But, seriously, one (basic) question : why this obstruction to the access of a fully independant international inquiry to the site of the crash? What was there to hide?
      I am pretty certain that if a passenger plane crashed in your back garden, you’d give total and immlediate access to investigators!
      Except… if you had a missile launcher between your salads and your tomatoes.

      • Haven’t been keeping an eye on that much. I saw that that at first the Dutch investigators were quite happy with the site, but lately they have been obstructed and are now pretty unhappy with it, fighting in the area got more intense too.

  6. Just reading Human Rights Watch report of indiscriminate rocket fire against Ukrainian civilians. Hell of a way to persuade them to join the EU.

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