French author Gustave Flaubert once said that “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” No doubt, tourism puts great impact on the human personality, bringing positive change in terms of exposure, awareness, learning and interactions.
Keeping this in view, every year I ensure to dedicate at least one month exclusively to tourism for visiting other countries. While writing these lines, I am currently on a European tour to spend quality time with my family. During our stay here, we are visiting a number of places in France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland.
Europe is considered the birthplace of Western civilization. However, the region was once involved in the worst kinds of conflicts. A number of countries also faced oppression by neighbouring countries. Europe was also victim of intolerance due to religious differences. The era of the Soviet Union also resulted in the separation of the eastern and western parts of Europe.
Being a student of history, it is quite interesting for me that European countries, which were the worst of enemies just a few decades ago, are now united under the umbrella of the European Union. It was the legendary leadership of Sir Winston Churchill who presented the idea to unify Europe to achieve common goals, resulting in the Council of Europe in 1949. The EU which initially originated in Western Europe has witnessed expansion after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Currently, 28 European counties are active members of the union.
According to historians, the Peace of Westphalia laid the landmark foundation of modern international relations, based on co-existence, sovereignty and tolerance. It was actually a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in the Westphalian cities to seek the end of European wars of religion, most importantly, the Thirty Years' War. During my Euro tour, I am also trying to analyse the long tireless struggle of the European people to attain this achievement.
Although Europe covers not more than two percent of the Earth's surface, the European Union represents a highly populated and culturally diverse alliance of 28 member countries. According to a report of January 2018, the population of the EU has reached 512.6 million people. Having a single currency, the Euro, traveling from one country to another is very easy. However, it is quite alarming that every year the devaluation of the Pakistani rupees increases the rate of currency exchange.
The European Union’s fundamental values, as I observe, are respect for human dignity and human rights, faith freedom, democracy, good governance, equality for all and most importantly, the rule of law. These wonderful values create a strong bond among all member states. It is cleared for every one that no country that does not recognise these values can belong to the Union.
This is the main reason that the EU member states are pluralistic in nature. All government officials are required to ensure respect of others and be tolerant. Gender equality and women's empowerment can be seen in every walk of life. Keeping the main objective of the EU to defend these values in view, the European Parliament also seeks to ensure that these principles must be reflected in the EU legislation.
In my view, since the idea of unifying Europe was floated, the unity of European countries is a success story for the entire world community. Economically, it succeeded to create a much bigger market for economic growth and stability. Strategically, it also helps to contribute more effectively and efficiently, both at regional and international levels. I think the role of Pakistani embassies is quite important to promote cordial relations with the EU.
There are also many lessons that can be learned to move our beloved country towards peace and prosperity. If Europe, having so many differences, can be united to achieve peace and posterity then what are the hurdles for us to not unite? This is the question whose answer I am still trying to find during my Europe tour.
The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.