What does Europe's Day mean to the citizens?

Editor's Note: After we have reflected on past achievements of European integration we now continue our series for Europe day by turning our attention to the present day. Does the 9th May still hold any meaning nowadays? If so what does it stand for and why should we celebrate it? These are questions that Christos Mouzeviris deals with in his article contributing to our celebration of Europe Day.

It is that time of the year again. The time of the year that will leave many people indifferent, few celebrating or commemorating, but most people confused and wondering. It is the 9th of May, Europe’s Day. Excuse me, does Europe have a special day in our calendar and what does it stand for?

Why should I be bothered at all and what does it mean for me? Is this day something that only a few bureaucrats in Brussels use to pat themselves on the back for their achievements?

No matter if we want to admit it or not, many of us have had those questions in our minds. Regardless where you stand politically or what your ideas are about the EU or a united Europe - you have to realize the meaning and the concept behind this idea. 

So why should we celebrate?

What we are celebrating is not the creation of a super-state, an empire or the next superpower, even if many may mistakenly believe this. We are celebrating the creation of an organization that promotes co-operation, prosperity, development, peace and dialogue, having its impact on many fields such as culture, finances, climate change, politics and society. It directly affects us all in our everyday lives.

We are celebrating the idea of a peaceful continent, working together for the development and progress of everyone in it. This is something that has never been previously achieved, or even thought of. In fact, Europe has incited the same aspirations in many other continents and parts of the world, since its success is an example for many other regions.

That is one reason why Europe should be proud and commemorate this day. The day on which over 60 years ago  European leaders put aside their differences and agreed to create an organization that would bring the continent together. When a dialogue was started that would serve to solve differences in peace instead of through war. When the same leaders realized that much more could be achieved by working together than by competing against each other.

European integration: Bringing benefits to every citizen

If that is not a reason for you to celebrate, think of the degree of stability, wealth, progress and opportunities for your personal development you enjoy today in Europe. Many of these achievements make your life a bit easier, either on a national or on a European level. These achievements would have been impossible without the EU. 

Achievements such as the ability to travel, study, do business, work or live in any EU country, without restrictions hassle or red tape procedures. Or the benefit to have your rights secured and recognized in all states, no matter your nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation. If these advantages do not convince you yet consider having access to different projects or funds that may help you set up a business, expand it or re-educate or train yourself and your staff so your business is more competitive. Or simply think about the benefit of having roads, ports and stations built or upgraded in your community with funds from the EU. The list could go on and on. 

The possibilities and chances that an EU membership offers to any of us is certainly a reason to celebrate, for without them our lives would be much different. It is hard to appreciate something good when it is there, but take it away and you will be shocked of the difference that it makes in your life. The least we can do is to remind ourselves of what we have, by celebrating and commemorating this day.

United in Diversity

It is also a great way in creating a feeling of “togetherness”, a feeling of belonging and sharing. A reason to be proud of your nation is that it belongs to this unique organization that is considered to be democratic and developed, to respect the rights of its citizens, and to contribute to the development and stability of Europe. 

It is an opportunity not to put aside our national identity as many fear, but to celebrate our second one that we all share, the European one. The EU is not trying to scrap any national identities, otherwise its motto would not be “United in Diversity”, and it would not have 23 official languages all recognized by the EU.

Progress through constructive criticism

The only excuse I could imagine for anyone to feel detached or unaffected from the celebration of this day, is the inability or indifference of our national governments to underline the importance of this day to all citizens. 

That would require explaining its meaning, inciting the interest and appreciation of the public. And that is also the root of many of the public’s misunderstandings or negative attitude towards EU. Because even if you are a sceptic about the project there is no reason why you should not participate in the commemoration.

If the situation is not what you think it should be, the EU gives you so many chances to express you opinion and have a say on what Europe must become in the future. And we have to admit: How many national governments actually do that?

Proper “euro-scepticism”, as they call it, is not rejection or opposition to anything related to the EU, but constructive criticism that can lead to progress and corrections. Any other attitude is not "scepticism", but simply narrow-mindedness, ungratefulness, and propaganda.

Europe Day: An opportunity for exchange and debate

So next time on the 9th of May, you do not have to sing the “Ode of Joy”, be dressed in blue from head to toe or wave the EU flag. Simply go to any happenings for this day near your area, meet and talk to people from all over Europe living there. Share your ideas, express your disappointment if you wish and discuss how the EU has failed you.

Or you can just exchange and discuss topics about your culture or country, sharing what you love about the country you live or come from and what it means for you to live in the EU. You could also debate how the EU has helped you and your country and what must still be done for EU to develop, or what vision you have for its future. That is what the 9th of May should be all about and how you should celebrate it. 

Happy Europe’s Day to everyone! Enjoy the day and the debate, be proud and have a vision for the future. You are part of Europe, so this is your day no matter if you like how the current EU works or not.