A simple visit to a war cemetery should be enough to disabuse any doubters of the worth of the European Union (EU), according to the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
“Peace is never a sure thing. Anyone who thinks that peace is set in eternity is fundamentally wrong. And there is war again in Europe,” Mr Juncker said, referring to the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine.
Mr Juncker’s crass comments came during a speech in The Hague, in which he urged the issue of Brexit to be resolved “as quickly as possible” and then “put in the attic of world history”.
The former prime minister of Luxembourg, speaking in German, warned that the refugee crisis now convulsing Europe posed a risk to the “highly sensitive” Balkans in the wake of last century’s conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia and that the “enormous stupidity” of two world wars could return to Europe if it did not unify rather than fracturing though a Brexit.
“Europe gains whenever we point out that Europe is a major project for peace.
“Whoever does not believe in Europe, who doubts Europe, whoever despairs of Europe, should visit the military cemeteries in Europe.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage immediately responded and said: “If you visit these military cemeteries you realise what can happen when nation states are not democratic. If you enforce an artificial identity and uniformity you risk a situation like pressure cooker Yugoslavia, which exploded in violence.”
Former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox also took the unelected Mr Juncker to task, saying that instead of “lecturing” he needed to examine whether the EU was “fanning the flames of nationalism and the rise of the political fringe once again”.
Dr Fox said: ‘The military cemeteries of Europe are testament to the failure of the continent to control extremism in the twentieth century. If Britain had not been a free and independent nation, we would have been unable to intervene to protect Europe from the result of its own folly.
“Before we are lectured by the European Commission, we should take a look at the rise of extremism across the continent and ask whether they are helping or hurting. Those in charge of the EU today need to ask if they are fanning the flames of nationalism and the rise of the political fringe once again.”
Not content with invoking the sacrifice of the silent dead of past European wars to support his belief in the future of the EU project, Mr Juncker then said that there could be no further negotiations with Britain in the event of a ‘No’ vote.
“There must not be any renegotiations with the British, who I like otherwise, in case of a ‘No’.
“Not only because the British Prime Minister voted against me when I wanted to become president of the Commission but also because he was so glad that we helped him to get a grip on his problem, his self-induced problem.”
Mr Juncker said he attempt to stay out of the British referendum campaign because his unpopularity would render interventions counter-productive.
“I’ve made up my mind to talk about it repeatedly but without saying anything because it is not useful if the president of the Commission is meddling in the British campaign.
“The European Commission is even less popular in the UK than in other countries, and it is a remarkable achievement that we manage to be unpopular in the UK at all. Every word of the president of the Commission or of the Commission about the UK has contradictory effects.”
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org