Europe Day: The Schuman Declaration and the Makings of Tomorrow

In the EU, we mark Europe Day on 9 May. Why so? On 9 May 1950 a foreign minister made a speech. But then countless officials make speeches every day. What was so special about that one? Why did the Milan European Council of 1985 have their eyes set on 9 May for Europe Day?

Andrea Wiktorin, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Belarus

My answer is that we chose to celebrate 9 May 1950 as Europe Day because that day marked the first pragmatic, practical step on the long journey to a united Europe. That day Robert Schuman, the foreign minister of France at the time, presented to the world the idea of his associate, Jean Monnet, to create a single authority to control the production of steel and coal in France and West Germany. The idea whose purpose was to overcome the devastation of WWII and make war in Europe "materially impossible", eventually developed into the reality of common market and freedom of movement for people, goods and services, labour and capital.

For all its practicality, the Schuman declaration expressed a very realistic vision of Europe, and today that vision rings as true as it did 67 years ago: "Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity."

This past March, as we were celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome and discussing the future of Europe with the students of the Belarusian State University, my colleague, deputy head of the mission of Luxembourg, also mentioned Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet. "Just think of our founding fathers," he said. "Sure, there are challenges, there are crises. But it's nothing compared to what our founding fathers had to deal with."

In its Global Strategy, the EU sets five broad priorities for its external action:

1. The security of the Union, i.e. combating terrorism, hybrid threats, economic volatility, climate change, and energy insecurity.

2. State and societal resilience, i.e. the ability of states and societies to prevent, withstand and quickly recover from conflicts and crises.

3. An integrated approach to conflicts and crises. Human security is at the core of all our actions and wherever we can we act early to prevent conflict and save precious human lives.

4. Regional cooperation as an effective way to manage security concerns and promote growth.

5. Governance based on the belief in the force of law rather than the law of force.

"In the European Union, we don't see a contradiction between interests and values. Promoting rights is the best investment for security," Federica Mogherini, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, said last Friday in Florence in a debate on the prospects of the European integration. In my view, that one remark just about sums up the EU's comprehensive approach to security.

Today, in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration, I invite my Belarusian friends, readers and interlocutors in and out of government to see how these five priorities align with their own vision for the future of their country and our continent, so we continue to find common ground and make practical steps toward that future together.