Europe Day, observed on May 9 each year, marks the presentation of the Schuman Declaration in 1950, which proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner to the European Union.
What was the idea behind the community?
The idea of the community was that its founding members – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – would pool their coal and steel resources and create a common market for them by lifting import and export duties.
The idea was partly economic: French foreign minister Robert Schuman’s proposition came just five years after World War Two.
But it was also political. The idea was that by merging the economic interests of France and Germany together, it would reduce the risk of conflict in the future.
The declaration reads: “The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”
What happened next?
The treaty governing the community was signed in Paris in 1951 and came into force the following year.
The original six deepened their economic integration with the establishment of the European Economic Community, with the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1958.
The Single European Act of 1985 set the objective of creating a single common market, while the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 saw the birth of the European Union, then featuring 12 countries, and set the path to economic and monetary union.
Who is celebrating Europe Day?
A quick online glance at the main institutions of the European Union reveals many feature articles or tweets on Europe Day.
The dedicated Europe website for europeday.europa.eu boasts of plans to hold more than 140 activities across the bloc, to celebrate. Nearly half of those listed are taking place in Belgium, home of the European Union’s HQ.
There is also a sense that the Brussels machinery is slightly reluctant to force the EU down people’s throats, at a time when the European project is facing major challenges, around migration, security, the economy and anti-EU sentiments in some parts of the bloc.
The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, begins her Europe Day 2017 address on the defensive.
Happy #EuropeDay 🇪🇺 “The choice of a more just, more secure and more equal Europe belongs to all of us.” (
FedericaMog</a>) <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EU60?src=hash">#EU60</a> <a href="https://t.co/KXheM7cyXM">pic.twitter.com/KXheM7cyXM</a></p>— EU External Action (eu_eeas) 9 mai 2017
“ The future of the European Union is a choice – a choice that belongs to every European citizen and matters to the entire world.
This year the European Union has turned sixty: sixty years of peace, of protection for our workers, of opportunities for our business, of liberty and rights.
But the future of Europe is not something we inherit from our founding fathers and mothers. The European Union is the values we believe in, the partnerships we build in the world, the mirror of our European society. Europe is what we,
Europeans, make of it – every single day, each one of us.
And we have recommitted to staying together, using the strength our unity gives us – because only together we can face the challenges of our times.
In the last year, we have taken more steps towards a European Union of security and defence, for instance, than in the previous sixty years. This is what Europeans need, and this is what the world needs.
In the current global environment, our friends around the world look at us, look at the European Union as a reliable superpower for peace and human development – perhaps the only one.
This doesn’t mean we are perfect. Far from that. Change in the European Union is necessary.
But change is possible and is happening. The choice of a stronger European Union in the world belongs to us. The choice of a more just, more secure and more equal Europe belongs to us, all of us. This is what Europe’s day is all about: not the future of the European Union’s institutions, but the future of every single European citizen.”