Why Europe Day Still Matters
Europe Day, held annually every 9 May, nowadays sometimes referred to as the ‘festival of Europe’ gives us all a chance to take a step back and appreciate the staggering achievements in social, political, economic and intercultural progress made within our continent over the past seven decades. It is, moreover, an opportunity to come together, meet with neighbours and friends and remind ourselves of the benefits of local as well as international contacts.
Europe Day marks the date of the famous ‘Schuman Declaration’ by French foreign minister Robert Schuman (President of the EMI 1955-1961), which led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. This year marks 65 years since that proposal was made, and, one might say, Europe has never looked back. Despite that, Europe today is coming under increasing threat from Eurosceptic, nationalist and extremist voices.
Today Europe Day is celebrated throughout our continent and by many different voices, but we do little to ground ourselves in the historical realities of what Europe has done for us. 65 years ago, our continent was still struggling to emerge from the savageries of World War II. Whilst this is not any longer the most recent war experienced by our continent, it is fair to say that the supranational institutions envisioned by Schuman – worthy recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 – have played a central part in promoting peace in our time.
For my own part, as Secretary General of the European Movement International over the past six years, I have had the great honour of appreciating first-hand the many ways in which European integration along economic, political and social spheres hugely benefits our continent. The European Movement was formally created in October 1948 at the Congress of Europe, and notable names amongst our own ‘founding fathers’, such as Winston Churchill and Duncan Sandys, were also present in the early negotiations concerning political and economic union in Europe.
Since that time, the European Movement International, together with its many member organisations, has fought for a strong representation of civil society across Europe. We believe that a robust civic space is essential in healthy democratic societies, and we do this through our many activities and lobbying work dedicated to the active participation of citizens and civil society organisations in the development of a united Europe.
To mark Europe Day, various National branches of the European Movement International have planned activities all around Europe (see map here), and the European institutions will be holding an ‘open doors day’, not to mention many other activities organised with the participation of Europe’s multifarious civil society. I invite you to either join in one of the activities or find your own way to reflect on the importance of ‘Europe’ today.