By
John Bond
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20 June, 2016

John Bond, responding to a request to write about why he is voting for Britain to remain in the European Union, recently had this article published online by Tandem publications.

John Bond
I have just been in Ukraine where many people talked with me about their longing for ‘European values’. By this they mean they want honest elections, bribe-free courts, education of integrity, and much else that they see as part of Western Europe.

After centuries of war, Europe has known a large measure of peace for seventy years. It has established a quality of democracy that is the envy of the world and the economic benefits have been immense. This is because the nations of Europe have learnt to sit down together and work out answers to their problems, rather than fight each other.

Twenty-eight EU nations routinely reach agreement on how to meet the challenges that make their way onto their agendas, but the majority of the media is interested only when agreement is hard to find and tensions rise. As a result, many people fail to grasp how well the European Union succeeds in meeting the demands of a pluralistic society.

The Ukrainians see this, and want it. They fear the break-up of the European Union, because they know that the more the EU is preoccupied with internal problems, the less attention it will give to helping establish democracy and good governance in places like Ukraine.

Democracy is a tender plant in Eastern Europe. Its totalitarian regimes had no interest in training their citizens in the qualities needed for democracy to flourish, such as a readiness to take responsibility, to find consensus, to respect the rights of others. These qualities are nurtured, above all, by example. The European Union aims for cooperation and, to a large extent, it governs by consensus. There is much about this model that others wish to attain.

Look at Africa, for instance, whose national boundaries were created by European imperialists. These boundaries often divide language and cultural groups, causing immense problems. Changing boundaries, however, is practically impossible. The only way forward is to enable boundaries to become less like barriers and the European Union has demonstrated that this can be done.

The European Union also shows that deep wounds can be healed. France and Germany fought each other three times in 70 years and millions died on both sides, yet today they work together. This gives hope to many situations where unhealed wounds provoke recurring conflict.

Europe has been shaken recently by the migrant crisis. Climate change is a factor in the crisis. Fertile regions in Africa and the Middle East are drying up, people have to move, and fights erupt over land and resources. Governments tend to favour one group and exclude others. Those who are excluded, seeing no hope, head for Europe.

In the end, the only answer to the migrant crisis is to enable Africa and the Middle East to thrive. Europe could help greatly with this. Our technical knowledge could help restore much of the barren land to productive use. We could stop harbouring in our tax havens the ill-gotten gains of dictators. And we could pay properly for the minerals, fish and agricultural products that we currently obtain, in many cases, by unscrupulous means.

This is too big a task for one country. But working together, Europe could make a huge difference to the prosperity of these regions.

This is why I hope that Britain will remain in the European Union.

John Bond lives in Oxford. He is joint convenor of the Caux conference on Just Governance for Human Security, which annually brings several hundred people to Caux in Switzerland. This conference initiates action to advance reconciliation, combat corruption and improve governance in many countries, and John works widely on these concerns, especially in Eastern Europe and Africa.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.

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