In the Sunday morning of 9 May 2010, European Union celebrated its 60 years anniversary that coloured by many festivals in the member states. Bitter experiences during the Second World War had forced the European states to reunite with further integration. After 60 years, European Union member states also had faced various experiences in managing both the man-made and natural disasters, adding to struggle to create peace in the domestic affairs.
The birth of European Union can be dated back in 9 May 1950 when French Prime Minister, Robert Schuman, called for pooled coal and steel production between France and Germany as the first concrete foundation of a European federation. The agreement was later known as Schuman Declaration. As its symbol, the European Union adopted European Flag with the blue background and a circle of twelve golden stars on it. The flag was first used by the Council of Europe in 1955. The European Anthem was based on the prelude of The “Ode to The Joy” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 that first launched during the European Day in 1972. The motto was Unity in Diversity which shared various values of the member states. Currently European Union has 27 member states with 501.26 million of people.
Celebration of European Union birthday went variously on the theme of unity in diversity in most member states except in Britain when the theme was changed into “To Europe”, as an expression of pointing across the channel in the continent’s general direction as though it is a separate entity. As Britain sits on the island apart from European mainland, it has a “culture” of euro-scepticism that construes the political nature of Europe Day.
Disaster and Peace Image of Europe as a peaceful and save region is built over years of bitter experiences during war and conflict that later drove the member states for greater integration. However there were both man-made and natural disasters that could not be avoided by the member states. Since 2003, the European Union established CIMIC (Civil and Military Cooperation) that able to manage 20 crisis managements in the world including both civilian and/or military operations. The EU civil and military operations took place mostly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslavia, Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Georgia, Aceh (Indonesia), Iraq, Palestinian Territories, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Darfur (Sudan). Both the EU civil and military operations running as international observer during peace process in those areas.
In EU member states, domestic politics also shaped EU policy as seen when the Netherlands’ prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende along with his cabinet in 20 February 2010 refused to compromise on a possible extension of the Netherlands military mission in Afghanistan. In the Netherlands, Afghanistan war has become increasingly unpopular after 21 soldiers were killed. The initial contingent of 220 infantry troops were deployed in Kabul in 2002 (Businessweek, 20/02/2010).
In the same month, NATO officially requested the Netherlands to extend its military involvement in Task Force Uruzgan, the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) operation in Afghan province of Uruzgan, aimed at training Afghan security forces and transfer of responsibilities to the local authorities. The coalition party of Afghanistan strongly opposed the extension of the mission. The collision between the government and the parliament, of which the majority disagreed with an extension of the mission, as well as among the coalition partners, threatened the existence of the cabinet, and led to the fall of the Balkenende cabinet in February 2010.
In terms of managing impacts of disasters management, member states of EU have participated in series of crises. First semester of year 2010 has shown these evidences. The morning of rush hour in 15 February 2010, two trains carrying 200-300 people collided in snowy condition in Buizingen, the Belgian municipality of Halle, Flemish Brabant. The Belgian national railway company, NMBS/SNCB (National Railway Company of Belgium) also known as Nationale Maatschappij de fer Belges, or Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorewgen/NMBS (Dutch), or Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belgesr/SNCB (French), and the company responsible for Belgium’s railway infrastructure, Infrabel, had reported on the joint statement that the trains appear to have collided laterally as a set of points at the exit of Halle station on the way to Brussels-North (BBC,16/2/2010). The government of Flemish Brabant had reported that a provisional death toll was 18 people with 15 men and 3 women. There were 162 people had been injured, of those 55 people had been hospitalized and 11 people were in a very serious condition. The train crash was the worst rail disaster in Belgium for the last fifty years.
The train crash had caused damages to the overheat contact system especially on the Brussels Mons and Brussels-Tuornai lines. Rail traffic was suspended between Brussels Zuid/Bruxelles-Midi and Halle, and between Halle and Etterbeek. Severe disruption of train services was expected throughout much of Wallonia in the southern Belgium. French international high speed train that operated between Paris and Brussels, Thalys, diverted four of its trains in the region at the time of the accident to alternative stations (BBC, 16/2/2010). Thalys cancelled its services including those to Amsterdam and Cologne.
Meanwhile, the Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash occurred near the city of Smolensk, Russia, killed all 96 people onboard including Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, and first lady, Maria Kaczynska. Most of the dead victims were upper Polish echelons such as chief of general staff, senior military officers, president of national bank, deputy of foreign minister, 12 members of parliament, Olympic committee head, and senior member of clergy. They were on the trip to celebrate 70th year of Katyn Forest massacre where 22,000 Polish officers were killed by Soviet secret police in one of Poland’s greatest national trauma (Associated Press, 10/4/2010). Thousands of people were in tears, placed candles and flowers in the presidential palace in Warsaw, and called the plane crash as Polish worst disaster since World War II. To this accident, Poland’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, and Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, held a video conference with members of special commission in Moscow, that doctors, psychologist, and other specialist were ready to assist relatives of the victims. Some bodies were flown to Moscow for identification and taken to the morgue.
On the natural disaster aspect, recent eruption of Icelandic volcano, Eyjaffjallajokull, in 14 April 2010 completed the pages of Iceland volcanic history for centuries. The volcanic ash spread 1,200 miles away across European continent that could get sucked into air plane engines, and caused them to shut down. As the result, main airports in Britain, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherland, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark were closed down in the aftermath of eruption.
Although there was no dead victim in the aftermath of eruption, the impacts run on the economic and political activities in the Europe and across the world. The economic impacts lied mostly on the loss of most airplane industries that have to close down in a few days afterward. The economic loss has been affected the African economy because they could not export fruits and vegetables to the European states as the airports were closed. The eruption had huge political impacts since the funeral of Polish president could not be attended by world politicians such as United States’ president, Barrack Obama, and French president, Nicolas Sarcozy. It went the same to the royal members from Spain, the Netherlands, and Norway that could not attended the birthday celebration of Denmark’s Queen Margrethe.
Series of world “disasters” in terms of conflicts and war had caused the European Union, now entered its 60 years, to create peace in by establishing civil and military operations. Sometimes peace had high cost because the fall of the government occurred on the quest for peace. On the other hand, disasters such as train and plane crash or other wide scale incidents across Europe coloured the page European Union technological history, along with it natural disasters, which could not be avoided by the member states. (Emilia Yustiningrum)