'Never forget how remarkable but fragile peace can be,' Bertie tells world leaders
The European Union will never be a failure so long as there is peace on the continent, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.
Addressing a conference of former world leaders in Dublin yesterday, Mr Ahern said many people have forgotten the original purpose of the EU.
And he warned that reinstating the Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland would be "a setback" to the Good Friday Agreement.
"In these times of political attacks and criticisms, we should never forget the virtue of the EU's biggest success. We should not forget how remarkable peace is and how fragile it can be. What greater success could come, or could we demand, from a peace union than achieving and keeping the peace?"
He was speaking at an audience of InterAction Council members which included ex-Russian prime minister Dr Viktor Zubkov, former New Zealand leader James Bolger and former Canadian PM Jean Chrétien.
Mr Ahern said that at time of great political uncertainty, the EU needed "to stop being on the defensive and step up its game in promoting the values on which the union was founded".
"As long as there is peace in Europe there is no failure large enough to tarnish this success.
"The EU is not perfect but it has been a success.
"The world needs a strong, vibrant, unified Europe more than ever before," he said.
The former Fianna Fáil leader said Britain had "shocked the world" with the decision to leave the EU, but the exit negotiations "must be handled in a positive manner".
He also warned of other threats to society, including terrorism, the war in Syria and pollution.
"Climate change, threats to our water systems, food production, global health and ultimately planetary health pose threats to the very existence of humanity on this planet," Mr Ahern said.
Conference attendees met with President Michael D Higgins last night before a dinner hosted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.