Europe

Why does Europe Day matter and how can you take part in it?

Europe Day is observed every year on May 9 and this Sunday will be no exception despite pandemic restrictions.

The date marks the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, which proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner to the European Union.

Europe Day intends to “celebrate peace, solidarity, diversity and unity in Europe,” according to EU institutions.

But it is also an opportunity for European citizens to find out more about what the EU does and to debate the issues that will shape its future.

This year’s Europe Day takes on added significance since it will mark the launch of the Conference on the future of Europe, a year-long series of debates and discussions that aims to reshape the bloc with the participation of its citizens.

It also comes after the entry into force of a “hard Brexit” in January this year following Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.

Just like last year, most celebrations will take place online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Why does Europe Day matter and how can Europeans mark the occasion? Euronews looks into the significance of this date and the numerous options to celebrate Europe on this 2021 edition.

What was in the Schuman Declaration?

In a historic speech in Paris in 1950, Robert Schuman, who was France’s foreign minister at the time, set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

Schuman proposed that the community’s founding members – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – would pool their coal and steel resources and create a common market by lifting import and export duties.

The idea was partly economic: Schuman’s proposal came just five years after World War II that left the continent devastated.

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.

What happened after the Schuman’s plan?

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 and 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.

Since then, EU has expanded to 28 countries in 2013 and shrunk back to 27 last year with Brexit.

What is the Conference on the future of Europe?

The inaugural event to launch the Conference on the Future of Europe will take place this Sunday at 2pm CET in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

French President Emmanuel Macron, European Parliament President David Sassoli, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will speak on the occasion.

The Conference is a forum for debate on how to reshape Europe in the changing global context marked by Brexit, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of nationalism.

“The conclusions of the conference could be the backbone for reforms in the Union in the future,” one of the leaders of the initiative, MEP Guy Verhofstadt told a news conference last month.

“A new direction is needed. This conference can give an answer to that,” he said. Conclusions from the discussions are to be presented in the second quarter of 2022.

Last month, the bloc launched a multilingual platform to help citizens participate directly in the Conference.

But according to a recent Eurobarometer poll, 48% of European citizens are against the idea of taking part in the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The project also faced delays due to institutional infighting over who should lead it.

How can I take part in Europe Day?

Before the pandemic, EU institutions traditionally opened their doors to the public for a wealth of in-person activities and events.

For the second consecutive year, Europe’s Day will be commemorated online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

From 7pm CET, Music Europe Day will stream a concert with 12 European artists from different countries, including Croatian Band nemanja or Girls in Hawai from Belgium.

European citizens are also invited to pay a virtual visit to the European Parliament, the Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, as well as other EU institutions.

A full list of online events is available on the Europe Day Portal.


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