Today is a holiday: 11/11. Europe celebrates it as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I (the war to end all wars), of which the fighting stopped on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918). The Commonwealth nations observe 11/11 as Remembrance Day in honor of the members of their armed forces who died in the line of duty. In the U.S., the November 11th holiday is observed as Veterans Day, honoring veterans from all wars, dead and surviving.
As far as holidays go, I’ve always liked November 11th. The day off at a hectic time of year offers a welcome respite, and more importantly, represents a time of reflection. Both of my grandfathers survived World War II, and the one still alive participated in the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach for the Americans. Before marrying him, my grandmother was widowed from her first husband who disappeared during the war as a pilot in the Luftwaffe on the other side. I happened to be born at the right time and place to avoid having to fight in any war. And that’s a blessing as I probably would not have lasted a day.
A day off in mid-November also represents a good time for reflection on the current state of affairs in Europe.
The European Union faces its share of challenges these days. From the economic malaise across the board, the corresponding denial of key countries like France, the bickering about subsidies and tax breaks, to the populist politicians’ penchant for blaming all that is bad on it, the EU has seen brighter days.
Yet for all its ills, it is easy to forget the founding rationale of the EU project. Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet first held concrete discussions about the prospects of a transcendental European collaboration at a time when the continent was shaken from two devastating wars. The core principle for the European Union served to ensure, finally, an everlasting peace among member states.
From that core, the benefits of closer economic, and eventually monetary union flowed. The EU project today still remains a work in progress. Its incomplete integration results in inevitable frictions, posing difficulties and nowadays threatening to dismantle its very foundation. This would be a disaster. I am convinced that the common market and common currency represent the fundamental underpinnings of a vibrant market of innovation. Let’s commemorate our veterans today, and let’s commemorate Europe.