“To create, by establishing an economic community, the basis for a broader and deeper community among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts; and to lay the foundations for institutions which will give direction to a destiny henceforward shared.”
This is just part of the preamble to the Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, signed in Paris in 1951. The preamble itself is worth reading in full, which is exactly what Lord Andrew Adonis did when he gave the annual John Fitzmaurice lecture in February this year.
While many of us do not need reminding of reasons to continue to fight to remain part of the EU, hearing this certainly revitalised our spirits as we approached the dreaded 29 March deadline.
Brussels Labour were pleased to be able to welcome Lord Adonis as our speaker in this year’s John Fitzmaurice lecture. Adonis is no stranger to Brussels. Members who have attended rallies at Schuman may well have spotted him there.
Given the proximity to our expected departure of the EU, this year’s theme was an obvious choice, and Adonis spoke to us at length about the EU referendum, the forces behind it, and the future.
A whistle-stop tour of British history in the EU demonstrated the changing nature of the relationship between the UK and the EU. Adonis was able to conjure up a nostalgia for a forgotten past. This wasn’t the faux past that populists lament losing, but the late 70s and early 80s, when Britain was not just part of the EU but a leader, on a civilising and democratic mission, looking for opportunities not threats.
We also got a view of Adonis’ own character and politics beyond Brexit. He quoted extensively from Roy Jenkins’ diaries with references to his time in Brussels, giving the audience a good laugh as they recognised familiar places and events.
Looking to what might happen next, Adonis spoke of the ‘Sherlock Holmes principle’; once all impossible options are eliminated, we are forced to have hope. In the end, many left this year’s John Fitzmaurice lecture with a bit more optimism about the future.
About the John Fitzmaurice Lecture
John Fitzmaurice was an administrator, academic and writer, and a founding father of Brussels Labour. He was an author of numerous books and articles on politics, as well as an official at the European Commission and a lecturer at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
In memory of John, and his unique contribution to democracy, socialism and Europe, Brussels Labour established an annual lecture around these themes, inviting a leading figure from the Left in Europe.
Neil Kinnock gave the inaugural lecture in October 2004, and since then we have welcomed a number of distinguished speakers from British and European politics.