Europe Day is celebrated in the EU member states, especially in Brussels, on May 9. This day represents the starting point for peace, unity and solidarity in the postwar Europe, ensured by the initiation of the European project that ultimately resulted in the creation of the European Union. The European significance of the day of May 9 is not known by many Moldovans who interpret it through the angle of the Soviet history.
The anti-EU populism and the numerous crises experienced by the EU tests the solidness of the European project. In this unfavorable context, many European citizens seem to be distancing themselves from the European idea. The misinformation launched by the extremist forces, accompanied by the anti-EU propaganda directed by Russia, pursues the goal of bringing the European governments and citizens at variance with the EU institutions. This fact creates collateral victims in the neighborhood of the EU, where the European idea is very vulnerable, including because of the close competition with the Russian geopolitical projects.
These aspects also have an impact on the day of May 9, when Europe celebrates Europe Day, while Moldova oscillates between Victory Day and Europe Day. The circumstances this year made it possible to eliminate the disagreements about this day. Thus, in 2016 May 9 is officially dedicated to the Victory Day, while Europe Day is celebrated on May 14.
Europe Day in the EU
Europe of the year 2016 is characterized by old crises that haven’t been yet overcome (the economic and financial crisis) and more recent crises (the refugee crisis). Furthermore, the EU is witnessing unprecedented multiplication of the anti-European forces inside and outside it. At the same time, the Europeans offer more political power to the Euro-skeptical and nationalist parties, including of the right: Germany (“Alternative for Germany”); France (the National Front headed by Marine Le Pen); Austria (the Freedom Party - FPO); the Netherlands (the Party for Freedom - PVV) etc. The pressure exerted on the European project and the weakened positions of the Euro-optimists ultimately affect the devotion of the European citizens to Europe Day.
We are speaking about an increasing number of symptoms of a crisis of the European idea within a number of EU states (France, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Germany etc.). Without broad legitimacy among the European citizens, the European idea and the European project are in danger. That’s why it is necessary to reconnect the European citizens to the EU and to re-launch the pan-European movement. At the same time, Europe Day should become again a holiday embraced by most of the Europeans, both at the level of governments and of citizens. Otherwise, there are few chances for Europe Day to occupy at important place in the calendar of the citizens from the vicinity of the EU, in particular in the Eastern Partnership countries.
Victory Day and/or Europe Day
In 2016, for the first time after many years, the celebration of Europe Day in Chisinau is no longer a bone of contention between the pro-European forces and the pro-Russian ones. Thus, the transfer of the festivities dedicated to Europe Day from May 9 to May 14 leads to the disappearance of the dilemma when many Moldovans were forced to choose between Victory Day and Europe Day. This enables to extend the celebrations of Europe Day so that they cover also the Russian speakers and other categories of citizens who feel powerfully affiliated to the Soviet holydays.
The congratulatory messages transmitted by President Nicolae Timofti on May 6 on the occasion of Europe Day and Victory Day show particular pragmatism on the part of the authorities. Also, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration confirmed that Europe Day will be celebrated on May 14. Representatives of the Chisinau City Hall argued that the celebration of Europe Day was postponed because of the concurrence with religious holidays (Low Sunday).
Anyway, the transfer of the celebrations dedicated to Europe Day from May 9 to May 14 does not annul the importance of the Schuman Declaration of 1950, on which the European project was built. Each citizen can voluntarily choose what to celebrate on May 9. Moreover, nobody hinders the organization of events dedicated to Europe Day on May 9. Roundtable meetings, TV programs and other information activities can be staged in parallel with the festivities related to the Victory Day.
At the same time, the fact that May 14 coincides with the final of the Eurovision Song Contest favors also the more efficient promotion of Europe Day as positive associations are needed to familiarize the Moldovan people with this day and make it established in their conscience. Any situation of dilemma must be excluded.
Instead of conclusion...
Europe Day must regain visibility and importance in the European capitals, where the anti-EU forces continue to increase their political influence and a higher number of people are converted to Euro-skepticism. It is the duty of the EU institutions and pan-European forces to renew the European idea and to ensure the durability of the European project. Concrete and immediate actions are needed to reinvigorate the Euro-optimism. Only if the Europeans start to believe in the own project and to really celebrate Europe Day, will the European idea easier become deep-rooted in the neighborhood of the EU, in particular in the EaP countries.
The freeing of Europe Day from the captivity of political disputes and artificial politicization by transferring the celebrations from May 9 to May 14 creates positive prerequisites for the promoters of the European integration. Europe Day must conquer the Moldovan people by positive associations, not by politicization or counterbalancing with something else. For now, Moldova celebrates Victory Day on May 9 and this fact is powerfully supported by the political parties that represent practically half of the Moldovan voters.
When the absolute majority of the political forces of the country are deeply imbued with the European idea, Europe Day will get the legitimacy needed to be celebrated without any opposition on May 9. Until then, Europe Day can be marked and promoted by each interested citizen voluntarily on May 9 or on another day, regardless of the (geo)political preferences of the majority.
Dionis Cenușa is a politologist, holding an MA degree in interdisciplinary European studies from the College of Europe.
Areas of interes: European integration, European policies, EU's foreign policy, migration and energy security.
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