When VDMA was founded 125 years ago, Europe was defined by states concerned primarily only with themselves. The agenda behind U.S. President Donald Trump’s loudly proclaimed “America first!” was par for the course in the European nation states at the end of the 19th century. Germany, France or Great Britain – they were all fighting for political and economic supremacy on the continent and in the colonies overseas. This European sabre-rattling ultimately resulted in 1914 in the most brutal war the world had ever seen. A quarter of a century later, an even more terrible war began – originating from Germany, again it gripped the entire world. It took the unimaginable sacrifices of these two wars to bring European unification and the understanding that the nations of Europe must never again revert to the era of national egotism! Conflicts within Europe must never again be resolved with armed force. We must not have sworn enemies just across the border from one another!
This radical break with the nation-state mentality has rewarded Europe with a unique period in history. More than 70 years of peace in the countries of the European Union, an unprecedented increase in prosperity, and the freedom of people to travel, work and live wherever they like in the EU. The fear of being viewed as an enemy in another European country is a thing of the past. No more fear and trembling at the borders – how good that this has long since become normal. And shopping in Milan, Madrid or Paris has become just as natural as if we were simply driving to Hamburg, Munich or Cologne.
Companies and their employees have also benefited enormously from this lasting peace and the greater freedom. Trade between the EU states has grown to more than €3,000 billion per year. EU–internships, study semesters abroad or jobs in a European company have become as easy and routine as once the daily commute to the office in our country of birth. The abolition of customs duties at the European borders has saved companies billions in unnecessary costs and made them more competitive for the global market. And perhaps even more importantly, the long period of peace and freedom has made Europe a role model that attracts investors and the best minds from all over the world. Several hundred billion euros each year are invested in Europe and the European Union from outside Europe’s borders, securing jobs and prosperity here.
72 years of peace – the longest period without war in the EU states