Photo: Miguela Xuereb
The European Parliament will be voting on an initiative asking all Member States’ Governments to consider the 9th May a new public holiday this month. This is being touted as a move for European unity among all citizens within the Union to share and celebrate all that Europeans have in common on the day that, until now, was only a holiday for members and staff of European institutions.
The 9th May marks the day in 1950 that the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman kicked off the idea for the European Coal and Steel Community. This was the foundation for the European Union as it is known today and since 1985 Europe Day was touted as the day that “peace and unity” are celebrated in Europe.
Nowadays, Europe Day celebrations include the institutions opening their doors to the public in Brussels and Strasbourg, with EU offices and organisations around the world organise activities and events. Thousands of people celebrate by going to concerts, speaking in debates, visiting institutions, and whatever else will be going on in Member States and outside of the Union to commemorate the European vision.
How realistic is this idea?
It was the Spanish “Europeanists” who initially proposed the idea with their leader Jose Francisco Siguenza saying, “We, the EU people, need to have a transnational day to celebrate how much we have in common.” Siguenza along with Simona Guerra, a University of Leicester political science Professor recently presented the occasion’s manifesto to the press.
The Professor pointed out that it is not the institutions, but the people who truly make Europe what it is today. “The narrative has to shift from fear and negative feeling to a positive perspective,” she told the media, “what kind of emotions can we share to build Europe?”
This movement, including a petition online which has been garnering the support of a large number of European organisations, now enjoys the support of MEP’s from the European People’s Party, the Socialists & Democrats, ALDE and the Greens. Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic referred to the “clear support” by the political groups, adding that “having the 9th May as a public holiday is not for the sake of holidays but so that we can show our unity and fight for our values.”
Considering the momentum the movement and the initiative have garnered, with the Committee for Constitutional Affairs also voting in favour, it is no wonder that Spanish MEP Maite Pagazaurtundua said that it will “most probably be passed” during the February plenary session. The petition was presented to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee, which Maltese MEPs Roberta Metsola and Marlene Mizzi are part of.
On the website asking organisations for their support, it was said that “The 9th of May should be a date reaching all Europeans, not a gap between institutions and the citizens”. This refers to the fact that, until now, the day was reserved as a holiday for staff and members of the institutions. It is also said that citizens are equal in the Union, with equal participation in the election of their representatives, as well as being directly affected by what the Union decides in their respective countries, therefore it would only be right for all citizens to have one common day between the lot.
Speaking of the individual competences of Member States, it is also explained that national parliaments and the European Council, which is made up of heads of states and governments within the EU, to promote the public holiday. Although ambitious, this is being seen as a “call for joint action” between the institutions, political parties, social groups, and civil society.