Europe Day is annually celebrated on 9 May. It is a day that commemorates, throughout Europe, the Declaration with which, on 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman, then French Foreign Minister, revolutionized relations between European States and peoples by proposing that “Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe”. In this way a war between the states involved was prevented for the future, the presuppositions created for the creation of common foundations for their economic development and the foundations laid for their union.
By their initiative, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, inspirer and author of this founding document of the European Union, intended first and foremost to maintain peace in the continent. At the same time, however, their aim was also to give a future form to peace, namely the promotion of economic and social reconstruction and the realization of the political unification of Europe. The terrible war that has destroyed the cities and landscapes of the continent, and had caused incalculable suffering to its peoples, had ended five years previously. The destruction and grief were still massively present everywhere in the daily life of Europeans and still conditioned their feelings and thoughts.
So a great deal of courage and farsightedness were needed for such a vision which implied not only the renunciation of a part of national sovereignty, but also the willingness for reconciliation and mutual trust. For this vision expressly aspired to the realization of a “European federation”, whose “first step” was to be the proposed Community of Coal and Steel. It was a vision that was also a direct challenge to the threats, then perceived as real, of a Soviet invasion and the dissemination of Communism in Eastern Europe.
We must constantly remember the courage and farsightedness that transpire from the words of Schuman’s Declaration, since in the course of the realization of the process of unification we too easily forget the reasons that were decisive for the creation of the organizations and their institutions which, with the passage of the decades, have promoted the gradual integration of the various political sectors of the states involved: after the community of coal and steel came the atomic community, then the European Community, which would comprise ever more political spheres and a growing number of countries – eventually leading to the creation of an Economic and Monetary Union.
The courage and farsightedness of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, as also of all the famous European men and women, and those less well known, who have dedicated themselves inside and outside governments, institutions and parliaments to ensure that the idea would become a reality, have led us today to the threshold of the political Union. To cross this threshold and enter a new phase in the process leading to a European federation, a new effort is needed, or rather a renewed willingness on a par with what has already been achieved to those men and women.
Then, as now, it was a question of maintaining peace between states. Then, as now, it was a question of promoting solidarity among peoples. And today, as it was then, it remains a question of fostering the well-being of the people whom the European Union is called to serve and wishes to serve.
That’s why we must oppose with all our strength the populist euroscepticism, which has in recent times been spreading anew like an insidious poison in the societies of member states. If at the present time it is not possible to respond to citizens’ hopes in terms of economic and social performances in Europe, and even if some tendencies are going in a direction opposite to their hopes, oppressed as they are by the developments induced by globalization, the response cannot be a return to national states and a repetition of the disastrous experiences that Europeans have already had by pursuing a policy of nationalistic self-seeking. The ways towards the past don’t lead towards the future!