Most people in the UK probably don't know it but today is Europe Day. It celebrates the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration - when the French foreign minister proposed bringing European States together as part of a supranational community.
It would be easy to ignore Europe day entirely. Europeans are continuing to be hit hard by a crisis they didn't cause and many of us are angry at the EU for failing to prevent, or fix, what has happened. The idea of celebrating the Union must seem particularly alien to workers in Greece or the hoards of young people unemployed in Spain. But, despite the EU's failings over the recent economic turmoil, we dismiss it as a lost cause at our peril.
The European Union came into existence after the mass slaughter of the first half of the twentieth century. Nations bound by trade and business, Schuman said, would find it harder to start wars against one another. And the European Union of nations has been successful in its primary purpose in achieving and maintaining peace within its borders.
But with the scourge of European War increasingly fading from people's memories it's clear that peace alone isn't enough to convince people of the merits of sticking together with our European friends. That's why, in the run up to the European Parliament elections next year, The Green Party will focus on a positive message on Europe: "Three Yeses".
Firstly we're saying yes to the referendum. No British resident under the age of 55 has ever been given a choice about whether they want Britain to be part of the EU. Here in the UK the Prime Minister was strong armed into promising a referendum on the EU by his own backbenchers and his fears about hemorrhaging votes to UKIP. But, ultimately, David Cameron is right to give British people a choice about our future relationship with Europe and the challenge now faced is securing the best deal for Britain and for Europe.
Secondly we're saying yes to staying in the European Union. On some issues countries are simply better together than apart. Whether it be ensuring social and environmental protection or regulating the banks, the European Union has been progressive in comparison to Britain. With capital and its masters able to move swiftly across borders to avoid regulation it's vital that we work across the continent to try and avoid another era of excess and crisis.
One must only look at the Robin Hood Tax for an example of where we're better off working together. The tax would be levied on an international market that national governments would face difficulties in regulating by themselves. Working together we could enforce that tax across international borders, thus warding off speculation and raising revenue for our public services.
And, thirdly, we're saying yes to a radical reform of the EU and a loud 'no' to business as usual. The EU must become more democratic, more legitimate and less of a vehicle for free trade. It's vital that people feel connected with the Éuropean law making process and that wherever possible decisions are taken at a local level. On many issues the European Parliament is not in fact the best place for decision making. But international institutions are vital in setting minimum standards and tackling issues that can't be dealt with on a local scale. A reformed EU must also limit the power of big business to influence legislation. European laws should, for example, increase the protection of workers' rights, not lay the bedrock for a race to the bottom on wages.
I'll be celebrating Europe Day today by travelling from Brussels to London without any need for a visa and by meeting my constituents who are using European legislation to hold their local council to account over air pollution. From making travelling easier to defending our rights at work or protecting our air, I believe that the EU makes our lives better and has the potential to do so much more. Happy Europe day to you all.Suggest a correction