By Petros Fassoulas
In a year packed with big sporting events, another is about to start, one with symbolic significance beyond the field.
The Ryder Cup is one of the oldest fixtures in the world of sport and is eagerly anticipated by golfing fans around the globe. It pits the US against Europe in a duel that can be matched, in terms of rivalry, only by a few sporting contests.
It all started in the late 1920s as a competition between the US and Britain and the contest was soon dominated by the Americans who in the post World War years won every single encounter for nearly three decades. It was not until 1979 when continental players were asked to join the Brits to enrich the team's talent and provide a more effective counter-balance to the Americans. And it worked. Since then the European team has won more encounters than the US. Europe has actually won six out of the last eight contests and it has not lost on European soil since 1993.
Which leads one to a simple conclusion. We do better when we stand together. Our size, our resources, our ability to compete is enhanced and multiplied when we come together as a team rather than when we stand alone. Just like that European golf team, the EU is able to punch above the individual weight of its composite members.
On trade, foreign policy, the protection of the environment, security, research and development, the promotion of human rights and the rule of law around the world, Europeans countries can deliver more for their citizens when they join together as a community of nations, under one roof, in pursuit of their collective interests.
Does that pooling of sovereignty threaten the identity of individual states? On the contrary, it enhances it. Since Europe started competing as a team in 1979, the European Ryder Cup teams have been made up of players from Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Germany. Did any of them feel any less British, Irish, Spanish, French, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Belgian or German? Not at all. Playing under the EU flag did not take away their national loyalties. But it did allow them to bring together their individual talents, their separate cultural traits, to create a more complete whole, a team able to compete and deliver victory for all of them collectively.
We Europeans have more that unites us than divides us. From Sophocles to Shakespeare, Cicero to Nietzsche, Lorca to H.C. Andersen, Da Vinci to van Gogh, Wagner to the Beatles, Napoleon to Nelson even, we share a common history and a culture that evolved and developed through centuries of historical, cultural, religious and trade ties, a common journey through history, through achievement and disaster, harmony and war, unity and division. For the first time in history European nations have come together voluntarily, just like these golf players have, to form a Union that aims to compete with the rest of the world with the sole purpose of succeeding together instead of failing on our own.
The European Ryder Cup team is a symbol of that shared identity, just like the European parliament that was for the first time directly elected by citizens all over the EU at the same year the Europeans started taking on together the Americans at the Ryder Cup. Such symbols are there to remind us the long way Europe has come after centuries of nationalism and conflict that reached its pick with the Second World War. The people of Europe emerged from the devastation of that war convinced that their future depended on economic and political co-operation than military conflict. The peace and prosperity EU nations have enjoyed since then are a testament of how successful the process of economic integration and political co-operation within consensus building institutions has been.
Whatever happens on the golf course this weekend, whether it is victory or defeat that the last stroke of the golf club delivers, none of the members of the team want to go back to the days when individual nations faced the Americans alone. Not least the British who saw their winning record improve exponentially when their exceptional skills where enriched by those of their continental team mates. Exactly in the same way, the EU will continue to move forward, together, through the good times and the bad, because after everything is said and done our ability to compete in a world composed of giants like the US, China, Brazil and India depends on our willingness to pool our individual strengths together so we can stand tall by the side of these giants.
Petros Fassoulas is chairman of the European Movement UK
The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.