“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,” goes Robert Schulman’s plea of 9 May 1950. The French statesman was one of the founders of the European Union – what we now recognise today, notwithstanding some recent developments in the UK, as Europe. Whether you acknowledge it as a political or institutional body, it can be said that people and groups across Europe, no matter how socially or culturally diverse, share efforts and achievements that seek to make it a better place.
To mark this, non-profit organisation the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) has designated 9 May Europe Day, which it celebrates again this year in the hope that in future years it can become a continent-wide holiday of solidarity and togetherness. An effort to sow unity has perhaps never been more necessary in this time of political division, caused by the likes of Brexit, compounded by actual physical division in the form of pandemic-imposed lockdowns to combat COVID-19.
#EuropeDay21 looks to shine a light on what is being done to make Europe a more inclusive, more democratic, more culturally aware, better place to live, even in a time of myriad crisis.
On the day itself, ECF is curating a livestreamed programme of talks and presentations focusing on rethinking what Europe means today, including an online session on what cultural mobility may look like after the pandemic in a (hopefully) greener world, and a discussion of the state of European literature and libraries.
As well as publishing a magazine, Common Ground, ECF, along with the Study Association for European Studies at UVA, are encouraging those in European cities to take to the streets for #EuropeDayWalks, a campaign to recognise the cross-cultural pollination visible all across Europe. In a press release, it says: “All over our European cities we can find so-called European lieux de mémoire. Europe is not only something in the newspapers or in Brussels, we can find it everywhere around us.
“And no, we do not mean the blue-yellow starred flags you might encounter on a walk through your surroundings. Europe could also be represented by a statue of a foreign scientist in a park, by the name of a street you are walking on, or by an office of a pan-European company. It could be hidden in plain sight in the history of a part of town, like a harbour or an academic quarter. You might even think of the restaurants and bars which claim they are typical representatives of other European culinary cultures. Once you start looking critically at your own surroundings you’ll see Europe is much more part of your daily life than you’d imagined.”
Countdown to #Europeday21
We like celebrating this day. For we believe in highlighting and sharing all the various pan European efforts and achievements to make our continent a more inclusive, more democratic, more culturally aware, better place to live. https://t.co/6nnTObHj69 pic.twitter.com/mu2dizwbTO
— European Cultural Foundation (@ECF_tweets) May 3, 2021
#EuropeDay21 coincides with the Conference of the Future of Europe, a discussion platform launched by European institutions to allow European citizens to have a substantive role in moulding the continent going forward. It is the result of the work of coalition Citizens Take Over Europe, which was established in the midst of the pandemic. It is a group of civil society organizations, citizens and residents from across Europe, joined in a common effort to promote a forward-looking and citizens-centred European democracy.
When it comes to unity of mission and fostering collaboration, the street paper network is unique. Not only on a global level, but on a regional one, street papers share obstacles and challenges as well as ideas and breakthroughs. The work done by European street papers during the pandemic is the perfect example of solidarity through working to make cities, countries and the world a better place, and so a model of the kinds of things #EuropeDay21 seeks to underline.
The European Cultural Foundation’s #EuropeDay21 celebrations take place on 9 May 2021 at between 1pm and 8pm CEST. Find out more about what’s happening at europeday.eu, or by using the hashtag #EuropeDay21 on social media. Follow along with ECF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.