On 9 May every year, Europe celebrates the new beginning that put an end to centuries of wars ravaging the continent, including two devastating world wars. While the Second World War ended in Europe in the late evening of 8 May 1945, the celebration of 9 May as “Europe Day” does not refer to any military victory or the surrender of an adversary in a war, but rather something greater. On 9 May 1950, one of the founding fathers of the European Union, then French Minister for Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman presented his vision for a Europe based on political and economic cooperation that would make war between European countries unthinkable. The “Schuman Declaration” laid the foundations for the creation of the European Union (EU), a unified Europe based on shared economic, political and social interests of all European peoples.
Therefore, to us Europeans, 9 May is in essence a forward-looking day, a day during which we celebrate the peace and unity that prevails among our nations, and during which we reflect on how to strengthen it. It is a day during which we remember and reaffirm that peace is always possible if there is political will. This message is in no way confined to Europe. It is equally relevant for all continents and countries where wars have killed and maimed, destroying communities and societies. Just like in Europe.
There are few places in the world where this message is as urgent and important as in Yemen. The war in Yemen can end and Yemen can be rebuilt and become peaceful and prosperous, if only there is political will among the many stakeholders which today look more to their own interests rather than to the interest of all Yemenis.
The rebuilding of post-war Europe and the peace and prosperity that followed was neither obvious nor easy. In addition to political will and courage, it demanded three key elements that were absent in Europe at the time, and similarly in Yemen today: Compromise, cooperation and trust. Given the deep-seated mistrust between Europeans, a system of pooling and sharing of coal and steel resources – essential for any warfare – was created based on the Schuman Declaration. The purpose was to make another war between European countries both morally unthinkable and practically unfeasible. Since the creation in 1950 of the European Coal and Steel Community, later known as the European Union, no wars have been fought between countries of this political and economic union. While the younger European generation may take it for granted nowadays, it is an extraordinary achievement for a continent of countries that historically and regularly engaged each other in costly wars for territorial conquest.
As Europeans, we know that peace is possible if there is political will and brave leadership. The essential spirit of compromise, cooperation and trust between political adversaries is today urgently needed in Yemen. That is why we engage closely to support an end to the war in Yemen. Unfortunately, the voices for peace in Yemen today are not the ones with the loudest voice or the most visible platforms. That is why we support Yemeni civil society organisations. We support those brave and willing organisations who amplify the demands of women and youth, who relentlessly call for peace but whose voices continue to be marginalised or drowned out by such violence and suffering.
A Yemeni equivalent of the “Schuman Declaration” – a political commitment to cooperate and compromise with “the others” – is long overdue. Impressive attempts were made in the past, such as the National Dialogue Conference of 2013-2014 that confirmed our confidence in the Yemeni willingness to seek a new peaceful and democratic beginning for the country. The European Union continues to believe that peace is still possible in Yemen and that the Yemeni population have waited long enough. We will continue to encourage political and military stakeholders to opt for peace, while supporting Yemenis who wish to see their leaders deliver peace and prosperity to its population.
The possibility of peace in Yemen is not a distant fantasy. It is an opportunity in reality, one that is present under the guidance of the UN Special Envoy. The European Union urges the warring sides to make the right choice now and choose peace. Like your European peers, the next generation of Yemenis deserve to view war in their country as something unthinkable.
Ambassador of the European Union to Yemen