How will you be celebrating fifty years of European Union?
By any objective measure the European Union must rate as a success. Despite its vocal, usually elderly, opponents (especially in England) there is little doubt that it has helped to boost Europe's economy and to keep the peace amongst countries with a history of being at war with each other on a regular basis.
It evolved from the EEC which started with just six countries in 1957 and had to wait until 1973 to become nine. Before it became the EU in 1992 three others had joined one in 1981 and two in 1986. Three more joined in 1995 and then ten in 2004. By the time the fiftieth anniversary is reached next year another two will have joined to make a grand total of 27.
It must be hard for anyone who wasn't alive then to imagine just how run down Europe was in the 1950s. Ravaged by war and by a dismal lack of investment before it, the industry and infrastructure were on their proverbial last legs. There was still much post-war suspicion between nations. Even in 1964 I remember seeing a poster of Labour's leader Harold Wilson declaring 'No German finger on the nuclear trigger'. He was anxious to convince the electorate that he was as tough as the Tories on 'foreign' policy.
Before it joined in 1973, Britain's economy was in a right old state. Of course it's not only being in the EU that has rescued our prosperity but it's certainly helped. It has, for example and contrary to popular prejudice, removed much of the multiple bureaucracies that bedevilled trade with our near neighbours.
It's a shame that so many powerful media moguls are against the EU. It's easy to see why they are though; they know that individual nations can't regulate multinational company activities on their own. But the EU is more powerful. United We Stand (as it used to say on the backs of some wartime playing cards I had when I was young (but I read it as 'until we stand' - oh dear) and all that type of thing.
Even though the ECSC had been set up in 1951, it is the EEC's formation that really marked the start of the European Union and it is that which will be celebrated next year. Of course there's a little row. Charles Bremner, The Times's splendid Paris Correspondent, reports how cross the French are about the logo (above) that has been selected - mainly because it's in English but they and others have managed to find lots of other niggles with it.
It took about 100 years for the USA to bed in and about the same time for its single currency, the mighty dollar, to become accepted. In comparison Europe seems to be doing rather well...