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The Independent Online
Sir: If, like Julian Critchley (letter, 24 January), you believe in the myth that "hostility between France and Germany" was the sole or main cause of both World Wars, then, almost inevitably, you will subscribe to the even more widely-propagated myth that only the existence of the European Community has prevented a recrudescence of armed conflict between Western European nations, and that only increased integration will prevent it in future.

Yet, over a generation ago, the potentially explosive dispute between Austria and Italy over the alleged mistreatment of the German-speaking population of the Alto Adige/Sudtirol was peacefully settled by patient negotiation, notwithstanding that one of the parties was an EEC member and the other was not. And in the succeeding decades, Western Europeans have grown both older and richer.

Middle-class nations with increasingly middle-aged populations are extremely disinclined to go to war against one another, however great the provocation. Violent separatist conflict initiated by aggrieved groups within nations - or federations - is of course a different matter.

Yours faithfully, LORD MONSON House of Lords London, SW1

27 January