Today, Europe celebrates Europe Day, otherwise known as Schuman Day in commemoration of the declaration given by one of the founding fathers of Europe, Robert Schuman, in 1950. Here he proposes the Franco-German production of coal and steel under common authority, leading to the European Coal and Steel Community – which paved the way for the union as we know it today.
On this day, with rising EUroscepticism, xenophobia and exclusionary nationalism it seems relevant to turn back to the founding principles of the union, to observe how far we have strayed and what needs to urgently be updated.
The Schuman Declaration, rising from the ashes of two destructive international conflicts that saw European countries as central participators and victims, held a great focus on peace-building and economic re-construction. In a seemingly fragmenting union, perpetually threatened by increasing isolationism and nationalist rhetoric and policies – the inspiring post-conflict desire for international cooperation seems to be where Europe today has been led most astray.
Notable is the Franco-German foundation of the union, still a sore spot for an expanded union, many countries within which struggle to have their voice and demands heard. In addition to this, its neoliberal foundation, is a feature which has come to increasingly dominate the Union and thus Europe’s general reputation more widely. Quashing Europe’s role as a promoter of human rights, in its post-war goal to observe and protect its most vulnerable and thus set an example and work to secure the fundamental human, environmental and social rights of Europe’s and the world’s most marginalised.
70 years of peace later, the European Union still stands strong as a beacon for hope, democracy and unity among European peoples.
70 years of peace later, the European Union still stands strong as a beacon for hope, democracy and unity among European peoples. Whilst there is much to celebrate, such as increasing opportunities of exchange for young people (including FREE interrail passes for 18 year olds!) transnational project of environmental protection, and a landmark resolution to ban pesticides that were killing bees at the verge of extinction – today we have much to reflect on. With impending elections for the European Parliament and budget establishment at the Council of Europe and Europeans must take a long hard look at what Europe is becoming and how far this stands from its initial principles and how much it fits Europe’s current demography and reality.
In fact, with steady inflows of people seeking refuge and humanitarian assistance in Europe, what has been referred to as a ‘European refugee-crisis’ is in fact a reflection of this more general European crisis of principles and borders. Europe is not what it was at its time of foundation – it needs to be updated and truer to principles of respect, dignity and human and social rights for all.
Read the declaration here, and let us know what YOU think. What does Europe have to reflect on today?