European Union External Action

2020, a double anniversary for the European project

07/05/2020 - 15:12
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For several months now, Europe has been experiencing major challenges linked to the coronavirus pandemic. As many European heads of government and public figures have pointed out, Europe is experiencing the most serious economic and health crisis since the end of the Second World War. The date of 9 May, Europe Day since 1986, therefore has a special meaning in this context, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration in unprecedented circumstances.

The year 2020 gives us the opportunity to celebrate a double anniversary: that of the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950, which is considered by some to be the EU’s "birthday” and also that of the European Convention on Human Rights, signed on 4 November of the same year. These two founding texts have been the backbone of Europe’s construction, constituting an inexhaustible source of reflection for shaping the European project.


On 9 May 1950, in the Clock room of the Quai d'Orsay, Robert Schuman, French Minister for Foreign Affairs, made public a declaration of his government in front of representatives from the international press | Source: EC Audiovisual Service


Thus, 70 years after the presentation of the Schuman Declaration, the first milestone of this long process of European integration, the European edifice is standing up to violent winds in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic. In light of such challenges, it seems more necessary than ever to recall and strengthen the foundations of this construction by protecting and promoting the triangle of cardinal values that the European Union and the Council of Europe share: democracy, the rule of law and human rights. 9 May 2020, the day on which the Conference on the Future of Europe was initially due to open, is a formidable starting point for launching this effort of deep  reflection on Europe’s values and legacy 70 years after its inception. Moreover, it allows us to ponder upon the significance of this milestone and the re-drawing of our European future in light of the current coronavirus pandemic. It is also an opportunity to reaffirm the need for ever deeper co-operation between the two largest European institutions.

Together, the European Union and the Council of Europe have reaffirmed their deep commitment to the rule of law on a daily basis since the beginning of the crisis and underlined the exceptional nature of the measures taken. They are concerned in particular about the risks of democratic backsliding, human rights abuses and disproportional emergency measures. As the Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić noted in its letter to the 47 member-states, “The virus is destroying many lives and much else of what is very dear to us. We should not let it destroy our core values and free societies”.

In the face of current threats to the fundamental values shared throughout Europe, this double anniversary reminds us of the importance of peace, solidarity, international co-operation, multilateralism and fundamental rights which are the very essence of Europe today. And Europe should try to provide an inspiring and leading example. This is why the EU hosted on 4 May, an international pledging conference aimed at collecting substantial funding to ensure the development and universal deployment of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus. The international pledges amounted to €7.4 billion from donors worldwide including a pledge of €1.4 billion by the Commission itself. This Coronavirus Global Response pledging event, organized following the call of the World Health Organization (WHO), gives a glimpse of what a leading, effective and mobilized Europe can achieve.


Frontline workers fighting to keep our societies alive | Source: EC Audiovisual Service


The role of the Council of Europe is also more important than ever in upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law in these troubled times. This double anniversary is an opportunity to highlight the considerable contribution of the European Court of Human Rights in the protection of our fundamental rights and freedoms across the European continent, also beyond the borders of the EU-27. The numerous monitoring and advisory bodies of the Council of Europe also play a crucial role in scrutinizing and supporting European states' compliance with their international human rights obligations.

The Europe that we will continue to build in the aftermath of this crisis should be based on the highest commitment to the protection of human rights and democracy. In that respect, the EU is committed to become a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. The EU's accession to the Convention is a legal obligation laid down in the Lisbon Treaty and should strengthen and deepen the cooperation of the two European institutions and offer a better, more coherent protection of the rights of European citizens.

Young woman holding EU miniature flag as a sign of support to European values | Source: EC Audiovisual Service


Let us celebrate Europe Day ... but from a distance!

Despite the restrictions linked to the sanitary crisis and emergency situation, the EU Delegation in Strasbourg and the Council of Europe, like all other European institutions, are mobilising to celebrate our common values from a distance, on the occasion of Europe Day. In order to contribute to the citizens' understanding of the Union, its history, its diversity, as well as to raise awareness of its values, objectives and challenges in this time of crisis, we have chosen to give the floor to European Commissioners and EU high officials, Members of the European Parliament, Council of Europe Secretary General and Members of its Parliamentary Assembly, as well as young people. They present their vision of the future of Europe 70 years after the Schuman Declaration and the ECHR in the form of video or written testimonials, which you can find on our Twitter and Facebook accounts, YouTube channel as well as our website. They also discuss the challenges related to the values shared by the EU and the Council of Europe, including democracy, the rule of law and human rights in light of the current crisis. The 2020 edition of Europe Day therefore marks a double anniversary, rich in meaning, reflection and also opening up to further questions, as Europe faces its most serious challenge since the end of the Second World War.

Happy #EuropeDay !



A common reflection on the present and future of Europe: written and video testimonials from across the continent


"70 years on, both the Schuman Declaration and the ECHR are more relevant than ever. Only by working together can Europe’s nations tackle today’s challenges, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. And in doing so, we must uphold democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, including freedom of the media. As European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, I see the Council of Europe as a key partner in promoting our shared values. Happy Europe Day and happy anniversary."

               Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency  Věra Jourová

“Today, on Europe Day, we take the opportunity to reflect on 70 years of history, building a project of peace, prosperity and values that is unparalleled in human history. These values and principles are the same ones that formed the corner stone of the Council of Europe.  It is these values, namely human rights, the rule of law, and solidarity, that have seen the European Union develop and become a leader.  It is these values that will continue to drive forward the European Union’s evolution, as we put forward our Europe Beating Cancer Plan, as we implement our landmark European Green Deal. We live in turbulent times. And in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, none of us can face this challenge alone. We will go through this crisis together and will come out of it even stronger.”

                                                   European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides

"This year marks the 70th anniversary of two landmark moments for Europe; the signing of the Schuman Declaration and of the European Convention on Human Rights. Today we are experiencing another such moment. A moment that is, without a doubt, shaping our people, our governments, our nations, as well as our collective future. “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”. I truly believe that we must take to heart and to action these words of Robert Schuman. Acknowledge our common needs, invest in our common prosperity and above all embrace our common future. For only truly united, and through solidarity, can we successfully take on the challenges that lie ahead.

EPP Vice-Chair in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Theodora Bakoyannis

"While Europe remained divided until almost the end of the 20th century, the foundation stone of a unified, strong Europe was laid in 1950 by brave Europeans who wanted to bring peace to the continent. 70 years later, we are in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis, which shows how far we have come. We demonstrated solidarity towards Member States, and we keep working on common European solutions to manage the health emergency and the economic setback. I am confident that Europe will come out of this crisis even stronger, and with clear proof that the EU is capable of becoming a great power in the coming decades.

Member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs of the European Parliament

Anna Júlia Donáth

"Europe Day 2020 is a special one in many regards: 70 years since the Schuman Declaration, 25 years since Austria alongside Sweden and Finland joined the EU and 2020 being marked by the Covid-19 crisis. For the future of the EU, I see the chance to now make some fundamental and necessary changes: we have to make the EU more social, more equal for women, LGBTI persons and minorities, fairer, especially by fighting tax avoidance, and more sustainable – ecologically, economically and socially."

      Chair of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality in the European Parliament

Evelyn Regner

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