What Is Left Of The Idea of Europe?

Today 66 years ago, something completely revolutionary originated, which is the idea of Europe itself. On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, proposed the creation of a common Institution overseeing the entire production of coal and steel in both Germany and France, the European Community of Steel and Coal (ECSC).What is left of that idea today?

Although pooling coal and steel may not appear such a big deal today, the situation was completely different in 1950’s. At that time, the coal and steel industry was essential for the rebuilding of the European economy. Europe’s nations were still struggling to recover, after World War II (WWII) – which had ended 5 years earlier – brought devastation across the Continent.

However, as coal and steel were the most important materials for the armaments industry, they could be potentially used to start another war. For this reason, the post-war political situation risked leading to major conflicts on who would own and control the production of these two strategic industrial products.

Resolute then to prevent Europe from starting other dire wars, Robert Schuman and the other founding fathers concluded that pooling coal and steel production would make war on the continent “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”.

Thus, today, 9 May 2016, we celebrate the anniversary of that historical speech in Paris – the ‘Schuman declaration‘ – which established the founding idea of a new form of political cooperation in Europe.

What is exactly the idea we should all celebrate in Europe today?

What idea should we all celebrate in Europe today? Well, there is no need to think very hard of it, since Schuman declared it loud and clear: “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.”

So, even though the main topic were coal and steel , it was clear that solidarity in a moment of great distress for Europe was what Schuman cherished the most.

What’s left of Europe’s Solidarity? Indeed, it seems that the continent lacks it terribly nowadays. Greece was shown no solidarity by northern European countries more than once since the beginning of the Debt Crisis. The same goes for migrants and refugees every day. Terrorism and the attacks against Paris and Brussels came as an icing on the cake.

Now that we are shocked and scared enough to believe in the inner enemies of our democracies, we are, mutatis mutandis, in the same situation the founding fathers faced 66 years ago. Europe is not physically devastated anymore, but its soul and identity are mortally shaken amid various hardship. Is there any hope left for a project called European Union?

Is there any hope left for a project called European Union?

On 3 May in Aachen, Germany, an Italian project called InteGREAT has been named as this year’s Charlemagne Youth Prize. It aims to encourage young people from all over Europe to help integrate refugees. It organises workshops, leisure activities, seminars and others events and involves international volunteers, local non-governmental organisations and local communities.

Awarded every year by the European Parliament and the Foundation of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, the European Charlemagne Youth Prize wishes to promote the European consciousness among young people, as well as their participation in European integration projects.

At the moment he received the award by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the Italian President of AIESEC, Guiscardo Urso stated that “integration is a process that goes through the dialogue, debate, sharing and, not least, solidarity. With this project we want to show that young Italians and Europeans are not afraid of differences and are ready to support and supplement, regardless of those of the skin, religion, language or country of origin: we are all human beings.”

So, there are some signs of solidarity in Europe yet.  Moreover, they should be for us all both a source of hope and a reminder of what really means to be a European Union.
Happy Europe Day to all our readers.

Tommaso Ripani
Editor – NEU

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