Europe Day 2022 – Monday 9th May
With the memories of the Second World War burning vividly in the minds of many Europeans, there came a momentum to craft something truly new, something that would strike out the possibility of further war and bring forth a new era of cooperation for the European continent.
In Paris, on May 9th 1950, the then French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, laid out in his speech, his proposal for a new single “community” for coal and steel production in Europe. The main targets of this proposal were France and Germany, who had both long suffered from an intense rivalry. The two were joined by Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, who together became the founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) when they signed the Treaty of Paris in 1951.
As Schuman proclaimed, “the pooling of coal and steel production… will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.” “This proposal,” he continued, “will lead to the realisation of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace.”
Now, over 50 years later and after no less than eight main treaty revisions and countless amendments, we stand amidst one of the most advanced political projects of our age. As it was planned in the earlier days, the European project has promoted peace and prosperity on the continent. The EU, as it currently stands, has grown to include 27 European countries, covering 4 million km² and 446 million citizens. Its tasks have long since expanded past coal and steel. Now it strives, amongst many other competencies: to ensure a well-functioning internal market; to revamp our digital space; to combat social exclusion and discrimination; and to secure a green future for Europe.
Despite the progress, it is not without its faults. Today’s waves of populism and protectionism pose a threat to our solidarity. The sad stroke of Brexit leaves a sore mark. An ongoing pandemic continues to challenge global leaders – not least the EU. In its wake are left damaged livelihoods, stunted economies, and what appears to be a long road back to “normal.” Peace and unity in Europe are also being threatened by the war in Ukraine. Russia’s attack is a devastating reminder of the importance of cooperation, both within the EU, as well as with its external partners, to safeguard peace and unity throughout Europe. In this context, Europe Day 2022 is seen as an important moment to reaffirm the EU’s bond to peace and solidarity with Ukraine and its people.
This is undoubtedly a time of challenge for Europe, and it is foremost in a time of crisis that our systems, institutions, and ways of doing, are put to the test. How we act now, in the face of boundless aggression, will shape the EU and the European continent for many years to come.
Whilst Europe Day marks the start of the European political project, on this day we celebrate far more than just institutions. We celebrate our friends from neighbouring countries, the relationships we’ve developed, the cultures shared, and the stories made. The true value of this borderless community is incalculable.
Over 50 years later, that original spark for a more united Europe still lives on. Incredible leaps have already been made to foster a European community and to bridge the nations, though there is always more to do. As Schuman foresaw, building a European community would be no quick feat, though with time we could create something truly great.
As the saying goes – Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Daria Stănculescu has obtained a degree in European Studies and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in International and European Law at the University of Amsterdam.
George is a graduate of the LL.M in European and International Law at the University of Amsterdam and a European Studies alumnus. He currently works as a civil society actor at a European NGO.
For a comprehensive list of activities taking place across the EU in celebration of Europe Day, see here.
Featured Image: Sculpture of Robert Schuman, Parc du Cinquantenaire (Shutterstock)