What do French people celebrate on Europe Day?


“Vive l’Europe!” On Europe Day 27 states and more than 446 million Europeans (including about 67 million French people) celebrate the European Union on May, 9th. On that day, many events are organised throughout the EU, including in France.

Europe Day history

Europe Day has been celebrated throughout the EU for more than 30 years. It was created in June 1985, during an official meeting between EU Presidents and Prime Ministers. The aim of Europe Day is to bring citizens closer to the European Union.

Robert Schuman

Robert Schuman © Europeana Collections – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Since then, Europe Day has taken place on May, 9th every single year. It is no coincidence that that day was chosen by the EU heads. On May, 9th 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman suggested that European countries join together as an economic union. According to him, such a union was the only way to guarantee peace in Europe for a long time. In his famous Declaration, Schuman said “concrete achievements” were essential to “the preservation of peace”.

Five other European countries answered the call: Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. In 1952, they created the ECSC: European Coal and Steel Community, along with France.

May, 9th 1950 is a key date in European history. Since that day, European countries have been uniting both economically and politically, in order to keep their continent peaceful.

Europe Day in France

The European Parliament in Strasbourg © French Moments

Every year, on May, 9th, events are organised in each country of the European Union. In 2013, the slogan of Europe Day is: “It’s about Europe; It’s about you!”. The European citizens are invited to discuss their opinions and vision for the EU’s future. Many special events take place in France, such as meetings devoted to Europe, activities in schools, cultural exhibitions and concerts.

Many of those events take place in Strasbourg, Alsace, which is one of the European capital cities. The European Parliament for instance is located in Strasbourg. Throughout the month of May, the Alsatian capital celebrates Europe with a “Village of Europe” created for the occasion in Place Gutenberg. Debates are held in the evening and the buildings of the European institutions in Strasbourg are opened to the public.

In 2013, Europe Day is being celebrated on Ascension Thursday and therefore it is a public holiday in France! However, that situation is exceptional as on May, 9th, French people are used to working. Because of that, Europe Day is not as popular to French people as are other celebrations such as Victory in Europe Day and the Armistice of the 11th November 1918. Because Europe Day is not a public holiday in European countries, people often don’t consider the celebration as significant.

Europe Day: one of the EU symbols

Europe Day

French and European flags flying above the Palais Garnier, Paris © French Moments

Europe Day is one of the EU symbols, among a few others such as:

The European flag: it is a very famous symbol of the EU. The flag was adopted at the same time as Europe Day, in June 1985. It is made up of twelve stars put together in a circle on a blue background. The European flag represents unity and solidarity between people of Europe.

The Euro: it is the most concrete symbol for Europeans in their every-day lives. The Euro is the official currency of the European Union, even if only 17 countries out of 27 actually use it. Still, the euro is the currency of 330 million people.

The European anthem: it was chosen by the EU countries in 1986. The anthem is an excerpt from 1823 Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (9th Symphony).

The motto: it was adopted in 2000. The motto is a latin phrase: “In varietate concordia”, which means “United in diversity”.

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