Commemorating the horror of Verdun

German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande on Sunday jointly commemorated the battle of Verdun, in which 300,000 soldiers lost their lives. The EU project prevents such tragedies from being repeated, some commentators point out. Others fear that nationalist reflexes and closed-door policies will spark new wars in Europe.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

An answer to anti-European sentiment

At a time when the unity of the EU is being frequently and recklessly called into question, commemorating this dreadful battle is especially important, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out:

“Amidst the normality of everyday life, with its smaller and larger dissensions, Verdun admonishes us not to forget the importance of reconciliation. And the European framework that made this reconciliation possible should not be taken for granted either. Of this too, we need to be reminded, especially at a time when the unifying forces of Europe are growing weaker and numerous crises are putting the cohesion of the European Union in jeopardy. The disputes in European policy cannot be banished simply by pointing to Verdun. Of course not. Controversy and dissent are necessary, even if in European policy there is a tendency to get straight down to the nitty-gritty. But perhaps those who are watching with equanimity or even malice the rise of forces that see the union of Europeans as a freedom-crushing mistake should also pause for thought.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Only Europe's union can prevent such tragedies

The European Union was created to prevent further wars, El Mundo stresses:

“Ever since its conception the European project has been the best bulwark against a repetition of episodes like Verdun. … For this reason yesterday's ceremony takes on special significance. Today Germany and France, enemies during the two world wars, are the driving force behind a Europe that needs to exorcise its ghosts to reaffirm the common values that have facilitated a long period of prosperity. 'Thinking and acting purely in terms of nation states would take us backwards,' the German chancellor warned yesterday. By paying tribute to the thousands of soldiers whose remains lie in the Douaumont Ossuary, Merkel and Hollande were speaking for all those who hope that Verdun is just a scar on Europe's memory and not an open wound.”

Libération (FR) /

We are heading for another Verdun

The success of xenophobic forces in nations that were at war in 1916 is worrying indeed, Libération writes:

“War is impossible in civilised Europe, our leaders tell us. ... But what do they know? Of course no government - not even a populist one - would want to relive the events of 1914 in the days and months to come. But in the long term? The postwar generations gave their children a peaceful Europe. A disappointing, uncertain, distant Europe, yes: but a peaceful one. And now we are about to pass one milestone on the long march back to war: borders are being re-established, national reflexes valorised, and people's distrust of all things foreign is being exploited. To put it clearly: even if this first step in the direction of Verdun is a small one, viewed from a historical perspective it is criminal.”

More opinions

The Guardian (GB) / 30 May 2016
  Verdun should remind British of EU's achievements