According to the European Commission;-
"Europe Day held on 9 May every year celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historical 'Schuman declaration'. At a speech in Paris in 1950, Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister, set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.
His vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. A treaty creating such a body was signed just under a year later. Schuman’s proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union."
The European Institutions in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg have been throwing their doors open this weekend to welcome visitors and to promote the European Union. There was even a Europe Day service held in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh on Sunday.
You may be forgiven for thinking that Europe Day was celebrated on 5th May, but that is the day on which the Council of Europe holds its celebrations, not to be confused with the European Union. I am sure two celebrations must be better than one.
This year's celebrations may have been overshadowed by the drama of the French presidential vote, and possibly a huge sigh of relief in Brussels at the election of a Europhile President in these uncertain times. However they are still important across the wider union.
This has also been an important major anniversary for the European Union, which saw the Member States meeting in Rome, with the exception of the UK, to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, sixty years ago and looking to the future. They put the occasion in context;-
"Sixty years ago in Rome, the foundations were laid for the Europe that we know today, ushering in the longest period of peace in written history in Europe. The Treaties of Rome established a common market where people, goods, services and capital can move freely and created the conditions for prosperity and stability for European citizens."
This is the first Europe Day after the Brexit vote in the UK. No one, not even the most committed Eurosceptic, could doubt the importance of the EU in shaping the modern Europe we know today. The EU has always been a flexible body, evolving from a coal and steel community in the 1950s into the European Economic Community and then into the European Union and Single Market we recognise today. Over the years it has admitted countries, including the UK, absorbed East Germany, accepted the practicality of the Greenland situation and turned itself into an important political global entity.
However, this approach has not been universally seen as the correct way forward and for the UK the Brexit negotiations proper are about to begin. Europe too is thinking ahead.
"As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, it is time for a united Europe of 27 to shape a vision for its future" (Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, 1 March 2017)
What this means in practice is the publication by the EU of the "White Paper on the Future of Europe and the way forward. Reflections and scenarios for the EU 27". They have celebrated 60 years and are thinking ahead to the next 60 without the UK. Europe will probably continue to change it's direction over the next years, particularly without the UK influence and evolve in a way to suit the aspirations of the EU 27.
In the UK, assuming the Article 50 timetable is met, we have one more Europe Day to look forward to as a Member State next year. According to the Prime Minister Theresa May we are leaving the European Union but not Europe. We have almost a couple of years to work out what that will mean and maybe we will still help others celebrate Europe Day by raising a glass of European wine with our friends even if we are no longer Members of the Union. We will still be Europeans.