Why Europe Has Its Own Holiday

Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash

What Is Europe Day For?

The EU’s Europe Day is May 9, the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. On this day, various EU institutions open their offices to the public across Europe, letting citizens participate in visits, debates and concerts. It’s a “behind-the-scenes” look at what the EU does. At times, the EU can feel faraway to its individual residents. By showcasing what the European Parliament, Council of the European Union, European Commission, and various other entities that govern the Union do, they help people feel closer to the notion of Europe and European identity.

The anniversary of the Schuman Declaration

Europe Day commemorates the signing of the Schuman Declaration, named after Robert Schuman. He was a French foreign minister who proposed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in a speech delivered on May 9, 1950. The precursors to the EU (the European Union as we know it today wasn’t established until 1993) officially recognized May 9 as Europe Day in 1985 to commemorate this momentous speech.

A bust of Robert Schuman at Parc du Cinquantenaire/Jubelpark in Brussels. Varech, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do Individual Countries Celebrate Europe Day?

Countries craft their national histories carefully, choosing certain dates as national holidays to reinforce the idea of a common narrative. The EU attempts to do the same.

A European Sense of Belonging

When the people who live in the EU feel more European, it makes the whole idea of a united Europe stronger. That’s why the EU regularly asks people about their European identities. A 2020 survey by the European Commission, the Special Eurobarometer 508, asked people if they identify with being European. Here’s what the respondents said:

  • 56% identified with being European
  • 28% were noncommittal
  • 14% did not identify with being European

So what does all this mean?

Europeans seem willing to buy into a common identity and may have no problem celebrating Europe Day. People seemed to enjoy themselves at the early Europe Day festivities put on by the European Parliament this past Saturday. The EU’s narrative will most likely never supplant national identity and the sense of belonging Europeans feel to their home countries.

Why This Matters to Me

I’m not European, I’m from the US. As I’ve lived in Europe since 2017, though, can I still say that with such certainty? For now, yes — but that’s a good topic for another time.



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Courtney Withrow

Courtney Withrow

Writer and Blogger. International Relations, Travel, Culture. Based in Brussels, Belgium.