Since 1985, on the 9th May, the European citizens have been celebrating Europe Day. It was also the opportunity for the EU institutions and the different non-governmental organisations to promote the European integration and their every-day work to take action in favour of further integration.

The idea of a European unity emerged several times during the history of our continent. Many Europeans defended the idea of a United Europe, from the French author Victor Hugo who called for the “United States of Europe”, through Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi who wrote the Ventotene Manifesto in 1941, to Robert Schuman whose words still remind us that “a united Europe was not achieved and we had war”.

The Schuman Declaration, delivered the 9th May 1950, laid the first stone of the European integration. This speech created a surprise at a time when proposing to build a European Coal and Steel Community and for France to make the first move toward Germany was not so obvious. It is why the 9th May should be considered as a red-letter day, if not a revolution. In history, other great texts such as the US declaration of independence (1776) or the Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen (1789) contributed to create new entities or regime. This also holds true for the Schuman declaration which brought Europeans together, allowing them to participate to an unrivalled project.

However, we have no choice but to note that the 9th May is not well known among the European citizens, nor even celebrated by the majority of them. Here is why the actions of the European Union institutions and the non-governmental organisations are fundamental: raising awareness among our fellow citizens is crucial to help them making their own informed judgement about the European integration and avoiding what we call today “fake news” about the EU.

Yesterday, eight Brussels non-governmental organisations (JEF, 1989 Generation initiative, Stand Up for Europe, ECP, Pulse for Europe, Avenir de l’Europe, Image de l’Europe pour Bruxelles and EU-Logos Athéna) reminded us what are their main actions in favour of a well-informed citizen and European sense of belonging. They planned this get-together in Square de Meeûs to celebrate peace, unity and diversity.

In that occasion, the European institutions in Brussels opened their doors the 6th May and gave the opportunity to everyone to visit among others the three main institutions (the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament). The unfortunates can still catch it up by visiting the EU institutions in Strasbourg (14th May) and in Luxembourg (13th and 14th May).

Why not making the 9th May a public holiday for all Europeans? To date, the EU institutions are the only ones to be closed this day. The idea, however, is regularly put on the table: Jean-Claude Juncker, then Prime minister of Luxembourg, proposed to all the member States to recognise the 9th May as a public holiday. Several petitions and texts since then had circulated to make this day a day of rest. Nothing prevents, until then, the Europeans citizens to celebrate their common day after a good day of work.

Pierre Angelloz-Pessey

Sources:

Quatremer J., “Le 9 mai, fête de l’Europe, jour férié ?”, Libération.fr, 9th May 2008, available at: http://bruxelles.blogs.liberation.fr/2008/05/09/le-9-mai-fte-de/.

The Schuman Declaration – 9 May 1950”, Europa.eu, available at: https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/symbols/europe-day/schuman-declaration_en

Photo credit: “Appel à la création de la Communauté Européenne de Charbon et de l’Acier (CECA): Jean Monnet et Robert Schuman (Quai d’Orsay, salon de l’horloge)”, 9th May 1950, base images du Ministère des affaires étrangères français, available at: http://basedoc.diplomatie.gouv.fr/exl-php/util/image_view/index.php?src=pho_doc|56805|0&count=1