Shadow of Second World War should encourage Remain vote

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EUROPE is bound together by the dream of peace, according to a German politician, who urges Yorkshire voters to Remain in the EU to avoid destroying “what we have achieved”.

The shadow of war and insecurity hangs over the warning of MEP Professor Doctor Dietmar Köster, who represents the Dortmund area of Germany, which has been twinned with Leeds for almost 50 years.

The Social Democratic Party representative said: “Brexit would be a very serious situation. Europe has a political crisis and if the majority of people in Great Britain go against staying in, the crisis would become bigger and bigger. “We have a real danger of disintegration of Europe.”

Professor Köster’s warning is the second piece in a two-part series from Brussels, where this newspaper sought the views of European counterparts with an interest in the fortunes of Yorkshire.

As a sociologist before entering politics, Professor Köster said British voters should remember the origins of the European project and that its intentions were to help better the lives of its citizens.

“It is not only a question of finance, not only a question of economic development, we all have to keep in mind that the EU is a result of two terrible world wars and people have learnt if we continue in this way, we will destroy the continent of Europe.

“We won’t have a world war in the next three of four years but I read an interview with the former advisor of (former French President Francois) Mitterand, Jaques Attali, that there is a danger that there will be a new war between Germany and France, until the end of this century, if we continue to act like we have in the last few years.”

Speaking from his office in the European Parliament in Brussels he hopes people going to the polls on June 23 will remember how important it is to retain peace in Europe. “We have to change a lot of things in Europe but we must not give up the framework, we should not destroy what we have achieved,” he said.

Dortmund, the largest city in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, was twinned with Leeds in 1957 after the then Lord Mayor visited the city.

It was part of a British Government effort to foster relations between Germany and Britain and student exchanges began, as well as cultural partnerships and the city centre’s Dortmund Square is named in honour of the link.

The two areas share a history of working class employment in heavy industry and post-industrial recovery.

By 1969 the twinning programme was considered so successful that Lord Mayor Heinrich Sondermann of Dortmund said at the time that it ensured a “happy future for the people of both cities, a peaceful world and a united Europe”.

Within the European Parliament, Professor Köster is part of the political group that aligns itself with the British Labour Party.

The 59-year-old said: “I cannot imagine that my colleagues from the Labour Party would not be part of the European Parliament. I learn a lot from them, like what the problems are for ordinary people in the UK.”

For the centre-left of the European Parliament, Labour have been a lobbying force with his party on ensuring the EU and US free trade partnership known as TTIP has provisos for workers rights.