European Perspective: Europe Day 2019

, by Juuso Järviniemi, Lorène Weber, Wojciech Zajączkowski, Xesc Mainzer Cardell

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European Perspective: Europe Day 2019
Photo: CC0

In celebration of the Schuman Declaration of 1950, 9 May marks Europe Day. The speech by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman launched the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the first step in the European project as we know it – or in Robert Schuman’s words, “the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace”. Editors from the different editions of the JEF web magazine share their thoughts.

Seize the day and live up to its legacy

Xesc Mainzer Cardell, Editor in Chief (El Europeísta)

As every 9th of May, we take our time to remember Robert Schuman’s declaration. On that day of spring in 1950, the basis for what would eventually become the European Union was laid. A project of peace, necessary both then and now. That declaration started with a sentence very easy to remember both due to its style and the epic it manages to deliver: “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.”

As Schuman already said back then, Europe has been built over time through concrete achievements. That way is effective, but it’s so only when you have a clear image of the horizon you’re aiming at. However, Europe seems to have lost its course during the last years. And when someone loses its course, that person does nothing but take feeble steps. That timid approach has taken us to the incomplete Europe we have, and that has taken its toll.

In our current time of uncertainty, the European project is being put in doubt by forces that do not want to destroy it, but worse: transform it from the inside and turn it into an unrecognisable monstrosity. Are we making efforts proportionate to dangers that threat the European ideal? Let us not be so naïve as to think that all we’ve achieved through decades of hard work cannot be undone. Let’s seize the day to reflect on Schuman’s words and live up to their legacy.

Europe Day, a coming together still not achieved

Lorène Weber, Chief Translator for French (The New Federalist)

National Days, like national anthems and national flags, tell a story around which a nation can unite. And it is not reserved to “states” or “countries”. Scotland has its own national day on Saint Andrew’s Day, the Catalans have La Diada, and so Europe has Europe Day. National days are here to commemorate essential moments of the history and construction of a nation and of its people. They salute a revolution, an independence, a liberation, a national figure… They remind us about the shared history and values that tie us together and create a sense of belonging.

Europe Day carries this spirit. On 9 May 1950, the Schuman Declaration was delivered by one of Europe’s founding fathers and marked the beginning of European integration. A few years after a war that devastated the continent, an historical figure delivered a founding speech for European countries to unite instead of tearing each other apart. It then comes with no surprise that this date was later chosen as Europe Day, as the Day commemorating “the coming together of the nations of Europe”. 9 May should then be this privileged moment when Europeans gather together to reflect on what unites them, what is their shared history and values, and what future – especially as the European elections are getting closer – they want to build together.

Unfortunately, 9 May is not (yet?) this moment of coming together. It has not fully become part of Europeans’ life and collective psyche, partly because a European (civic) education is missing, or partly because 9 May is not a public holiday in Europe as a whole. And yet, Europe needs a narrative. Europe needs a sense of belonging. Europe needs to fulfil its first and foremost purpose of making Europeans come together. Europe and Europeans need their Europe Day.

A day to fight, not play the fiddle

Juuso Järviniemi, Editor in Chief (The New Federalist)

JEF’s headline slogan for this Europe Day is “Don’t just celebrate Europe, choose Europe”. In the official communications of institutions and of Europe-minded governments, 9 May is a day to look back at where we’ve progressed from the early 1950s. The European project is one of the greatest political ideas humankind has ever had. This project deserves at least one day of celebration each year.

At the same time, the vanguard must avoid complacence. On Europe Day, just before Eurovision and the European elections, citizens are particularly prepared to think about Europe. The federalist message comes in two parts: “Europe is good” is part one, “but it needs fixing” is part two. Few others will put these two parts together, so the federalists must. We should not be afraid: this message has every chance to resonate with public opinion, and it already does whenever it’s articulated.

Today there will be music and dancing, and the fiddles will be playing. Yet someone must remind others that Rome is burning. It is possible to attend a party and enjoy it whilst knowing where the fire extinguisher is located. It’s a day of joy and of showing our love for Europe – but not one of irresponsible infatuation.

Poland: Europe Day and the Virgin Mary

Wojciech Zajaczkowski, Editor in Chief (Kurier Europejski)

As in the other European countries, this year’s Europe Day takes place in the centre of the campaign before the European elections. May in Poland is always a special time because many Poles depart on the so-called “Majówka”, which is a long weekend off from work. On the 1st of May we celebrate the Labour Day, on the 2nd the Flag Day and on the 3rd the Anniversary of the Constitution. That’s why the 9th of May has never really been on the focus for the Poles.

Nonetheless, every year the Schuman’s Parade takes place in Warsaw. It’s organised by the Schuman Foundation on Saturday after the Europe’s Day, thus, this year on the 11th of May. This year will be the 20th anniversary of the parade. The attendance may be higher this year because of the conflict between the opposition and the government. The opposition in Poland is reunited in the European Coalition and advocates for the further integration within the EU, whereas the government would like the integration only in the economic dimension.

The topic of the European elections has been neglected lately by the Polish media because of the government’s sudden interest in art. Last week the Director of the National Museum ordered taking down two of the artworks because, in his words, they were promoting “the ideology of gender”. It sparked loud protests against the censorship of art. This week the Minister of Interior, Joachim Brudziński, (N.B. a candidate in the European elections) announced on Twitter that the police has arrested a 51-year old woman accused of profanation the image of the Virgin Mary from Częstochowa. The “profanation” of the image consisted of replacing the halo of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow.

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