Today we celebrate Europe Day, a symbol to remember the Schuman Declaration, introducing the idea of the European Construction we know nowadays as the European Union. But who celebrates it really ? In Europe, the only country that has established it as a public holiday to celebrate “Europe Day” is .. Kosovo, which is not even a Member State of the EU.

As French-Polish citizen born on the 9th of May, this day always have had different meanings to me. I could care less about my birthday, but the overlapping of different celebrations on this day in Western and Eastern Europe has always stroke me. During my exchange semester at the Jagiellonian  University of Cracow, I have chosen to follow an anthropology of the European Union class to do some research on the following question: Is the 9th of May a good symbol for Europe ? The answer is a clear no.

Let me explain briefly.

A date, as a symbol, sets the beginning of an era, and will eventually define a calendar, which will help the human to create History, and enable us to jump from one event to another with this artificial coherence. Good is to remember that without calendar and eras, History is only a chaotic succession of various events. Calendar and eras are meant to give a meaning and coherence to this chaos. In the Western World, we use the birth of Jesus Christ as the beginning of our era and on which is based our calendar until today. Eras, Calendars and founding dates serve the purpose to simplify History and to do so, we necessarily have to give it a bias, may it be strong or not.

When it comes to political construction such as Nation States or the European Union, the date-symbol is here to serve the legitimization of this political entity. It is meant to gather a population around a single narrative of History and serve the “vivre ensemble”. Europe Day is meant to be Day 1 of  Year 1 of the European Construction.

Now that we know what a date-symbol is meant to be, does Europe Day meets its expectations? No. But maybe it will in the future.

Let me go further with the explanation.

Europe Day, as we know it in Western Europe, has been set as an official symbol of the European Union during the Milan Summit of 1985. That is of course long before the collapse of the USSR and even longer before the integration of the first Post-Soviet European Countries in the EU. At that time, and since a couple of decades, the 9th of May was celebrated in the East as Victory Day, whereas Western Europe usually celebrates it on the 8th of May like it is the case in France. The capitulation of the Nazi Regime was declared on the 8th of May 1945 at 11:01 pm, at Berlin Time, whereas it was already the 9th of May at Moscow Time. (+2 hours compared to Berlin)
So the 9th of May as carried the narrative of the victorious liberation of Europe by the Red Army in the whole Eastern Europe during decades and it is still the case nowadays for some of these countries such as Romania and Bulgaria. Those two countries actually share also the same time zone (+1 hour compared to Berlin) which would legitimate them to celebrate the Victory against Nazi Germany on the 9th of May.

Most Central European countries have shifted from 9th to 8th their celebration of the Victory Day after the collapse of the USSR like Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland. Poland is the last country to have established this shifting, voted by a majority of its deputies in April 2015 (396 for, 5 against and 14 abstentions). (1)
2016 is the first year Poland celebrated Victory Day on the 8th of May and has also changed its name by the same occasion. From Święta Zwycięstwa i Wolności, literally “Holy Victory and Freedom” to Narodowy Dzień Zwycięstwa, « National Victory Day ».

Why has been supressed the word “Freedom”? The 9th of May is still seen in whole Eastern Europe as the day, “we traded Hitler for Stalin” (2), to quote former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus. Latvia and Lithuania have also changed their date of celebration to match with the Eastern narrative. Notably in the Baltic States, maybe even more than in Central Europe, the Soviet oppression has always been seen as more criminal and violent as the one from the Nazi Regime.

This way, the 9th of May carries already a tremendous negative meaning in Eastern Europe and the overlapping of meanings consist in a blockade to make this date a symbol meant to give unanimous support of the population to the EU institutions. The current shifting of date happening in Eastern and Central Europe could led us think that room will be given for a unique celebration of the Europe Day that would unite whole Europe. But can New Member States really identify with the Declaration Schuman? And how about European countries like Ukraine and Moldova, where pro-Russian separatists regions would rather keep on carrying the Eastern narrative of History ? What about countries like the Baltic States where important Russian minorities live ?
In my opinion, a shifting from Eastern to Western symbol and narrative is barely appreciable, even though it is happening. What Europe needs is a common symbol that would effectively unite its citizens, and not the 9th of May.

(1) http://wyborcza.pl/1,75478,17810729,Sejm__Dzien_Zwyciestwa_bedziemy_obchodzic_8_maja.html

(2) Eva-Clarita Onken, “The Baltic states and Moscow’s 9 May”, 24.

Today we celebrate Europe Day, a symbol to remember the Schuman Declaration, introducing the idea of the European Construction we know nowadays as the European Union. But who celebrates it really ? In Europe, the only country that has established it as a public holiday to celebrate “Europe Day” is .. Kosovo, which is not even a Member State of the EU.

As French-Polish citizen born on the 9th of May, this day always have had different meanings to me. I could care less about my birthday, but the overlapping of different celebrations on this day in Western and Eastern Europe has always stroke me. During my exchange semester at the Jagiellonian  University of Cracow, I have chosen to follow an anthropology of the European Union class to do some research on the following question: Is the 9th of May a good symbol for Europe ? The answer is a clear no.

Let me explain briefly.

A date, as a symbol, sets the beginning of an era, and will eventually define a calendar, which will help the human to create History, and enable us to jump from one event to another with this artificial coherence. Good is to remember that without calendar and eras, History is only a chaotic succession of various events. Calendar and eras are meant to give a meaning and coherence to this chaos. In the Western World, we use the birth of Jesus Christ as the beginning of our era and on which is based our calendar until today. Eras, Calendars and founding dates serve the purpose to simplify History and to do so, we necessarily have to give it a bias, may it be strong or not.

When it comes to political construction such as Nation States or the European Union, the date-symbol is here to serve the legitimization of this political entity. It is meant to gather a population around a single narrative of History and serve the “vivre ensemble”. Europe Day is meant to be Day 1 of  Year 1 of the European Construction.

Now that we know what a date-symbol is meant to be, does Europe Day meets its expectations? No. But maybe it will in the future.

Let me go further with the explanation.

Europe Day, as we know it in Western Europe, has been set as an official symbol of the European Union during the Milan Summit of 1985. That is of course long before the collapse of the USSR and even longer before the integration of the first Post-Soviet European Countries in the EU. At that time, and since a couple of decades, the 9th of May was celebrated in the East as Victory Day, whereas Western Europe usually celebrates it on the 8th of May like it is the case in France. The capitulation of the Nazi Regime was declared on the 8th of May 1945 at 11:01 pm, at Berlin Time, whereas it was already the 9th of May at Moscow Time. (+2 hours compared to Berlin)
So the 9th of May as carried the narrative of the victorious liberation of Europe by the Red Army in the whole Eastern Europe during decades and it is still the case nowadays for some of these countries such as Romania and Bulgaria. Those two countries actually share also the same time zone (+1 hour compared to Berlin) which would legitimate them to celebrate the Victory against Nazi Germany on the 9th of May.

Most Central European countries have shifted from 9th to 8th their celebration of the Victory Day after the collapse of the USSR like Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland. Poland is the last country to have established this shifting, voted by a majority of its deputies in April 2015 (396 for, 5 against and 14 abstentions). (1)
2016 is the first year Poland celebrated Victory Day on the 8th of May and has also changed its name by the same occasion. From Święta Zwycięstwa i Wolności, literally “Holy Victory and Freedom” to Narodowy Dzień Zwycięstwa, « National Victory Day ».

Why has been supressed the word “Freedom”? The 9th of May is still seen in whole Eastern Europe as the day, “we traded Hitler for Stalin” (2), to quote former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus. Latvia and Lithuania have also changed their date of celebration to match with the Eastern narrative. Notably in the Baltic States, maybe even more than in Central Europe, the Soviet oppression has always been seen as more criminal and violent as the one from the Nazi Regime.

This way, the 9th of May carries already a tremendous negative meaning in Eastern Europe and the overlapping of meanings consist in a blockade to make this date a symbol meant to give unanimous support of the population to the EU institutions. The current shifting of date happening in Eastern and Central Europe could led us think that room will be given for a unique celebration of the Europe Day that would unite whole Europe. But can New Member States really identify with the Declaration Schuman? And how about European countries like Ukraine and Moldova, where pro-Russian separatists regions would rather keep on carrying the Eastern narrative of History ? What about countries like the Baltic States where important Russian minorities live ?
In my opinion, a shifting from Eastern to Western symbol and narrative is barely appreciable, even though it is happening. What Europe needs is a common symbol that would effectively unite its citizens, and not the 9th of May.

(1) http://wyborcza.pl/1,75478,17810729,Sejm__Dzien_Zwyciestwa_bedziemy_obchodzic_8_maja.html

(2) Eva-Clarita Onken, “The Baltic states and Moscow’s 9 May”, 24.