Sir, As John Plender suggests (“The myth of the European peace project”, August 5), the story of the EU as the source of Europe’s postwar peace can be overdone. But his article contains two omissions and an important error. The first omission is any mention of Nato. Without the American commitment and presence in Europe, Germany would either have fallen under Soviet influence, or it would have needed a military big enough to fight a two-front war: something that would have scared the daylights out of everyone else. Nato was a precondition of the EU. The EU treaties themselves may be seen as a substitute for peace treaties ending the second world war in Europe.

The second omission is eastern Europe. We should give the EU some credit for the transition in central Europe, a rare case of revolutions bringing democracy. In the Balkans, the lure of the EU — still more attractive than any alternative — remains vital in rebuilding peace.

The error is to discuss the EU as though it were a free trade area. Mr Plender is right to dismiss the Cobden theory that free trade brings peace. The EU, however, is not a free trade area but a common regulatory space. This requires endless meetings, including among heads of government. The meetings may be dull but the habit of doing business together creates useful spin-offs, one of which is a certain sense of being a political community. It is something like this that Jean Monnet was aiming at: an intangible that we may notice only when we no longer belong.

Robert Cooper

London W11, UK

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