“May 9, Europe Day, is not just a day of remembrance, but also a day to consider our shared future. The day’s proximity to the elections makes it a more meaningful occasion than ever”, explained the European Parliament in a press release. 

The date, May 9, commemorates French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman’s historic declaration in 1950 on the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community, which later became the European Union. Since 1985, this day has been marked with celebrations and festivities throughout Europe.  

“Use your vote. Or others will decide for you”

On Europe Day 2024, more than 60 cities will illuminate iconic buildings and monuments in a bid to highlight the importance of voting. “Use your vote. Or others will decide for you”: the campaign slogan of the European Parliament and the blue-starred EU flag will be projected onto monuments on the night of Europe Day – among them the Colosseum in Rome, the Grand Place in Brussels to the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin, Vilnius’ town hall or Bratislava’s Presidential palace.

“With these illuminations taking place in cities across the continent, the European Parliament and national and local authorities are working together to send a united message to 440 million European citizens about the importance of these European elections for everyone’s future”, read the European Parliament’s statement. Since the illuminations are on public display, they are directed at every person, not solely those who are eligible to vote. 

Between June 6 and 9, EU citizens are called to vote for 720 members of the European Parliament. Last October, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity had already called for vigilance ahead of the June elections saying “information manipulation campaigns are considered to be a major threat to election processes”. 

Disinformation and propaganda have been a matter of discussion in the run-up to the elections, as well as  on social media. Experts say, far-right populist parties are way ahead of their traditional rivals in the race for voter attention on social media, where disinformation is stirring fear and rage around key issues in the European elections.

Celebrations across Europe: Inclusion, anniversaries and the looking into the future of the bloc

Celebrations of Europe Day are touching the domains of art, culture, politics and more. Through music, dance, discussions, screenings and other formats thousands of people commemorate peace, unity and the European idea. Member states and candidates are hosting festivities in a plethora of cities, often in collaboration with national entities, EU institutions or civil society.

The European Commission and the European Parliament already opened their doors to interested visitors in Brussels on May 4 and in Straßbourg on April 27. For the first time, the European Parliament will mark Europe Day celebrations on its Luxembourg premises with a “democracy village”, cultural performances and a new Europa Experience exhibition opening to the public on May 9.

In Italy, for the first time since the establishment of Europe Day, three historic Italian villages will be lit up in blue.  A key event will be held in Rome’s Piazza del Campidoglio with a debate, readings and music.

To celebrate Europe Day, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, will take part in the event ‘Why Europe Matters’ on May 8 in Madrid, with a performance of the EU anthem Ode to Joy by the Philharmonic Orchestra and dialogues on the impact and future of the EU.

In Slovenia, this year’s celebration of Europe Day will mark 20 years of EU membership. The main celebration of the anniversary will take place on May 9 in Europe Square, shared by Italy and Slovenia. 20 years ago, the then Prime Minister of Slovenia Anton Rop and the President of the European Commission at the time, Romano Prodi, counted down the seconds until Slovenia’s accession to the EU on the square.

In Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, visitors will have the opportunity to try local food and drinks from EU member states and enjoy music and dance from different parts of Europe. As part of the LUNAR festival, a 3D light show will illuminate the National Art Gallery Palace.

EU-candidate Albania also celebrates Europe Day annually. On May 4, Europe Week launched in Shkodër with a focus on inclusiveness, diversity and human rights. Europe Week will come to a close on May 9 with a Europe Fair in Albania’s capital Tirana.

International Charlemagne Prize and Charlemagne Youth Prize

In the German city of Aachen, traditionally the award ceremony of the International Charlemagne Prize for services to Europe is held on Ascension Day. This year Ascension Day also falls on May 9.

First awarded in 1950, this year’s award will go to Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who is the President of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), and the Jewish people in Europe.

According to the Board of Directors of the Society for the Conferring of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, the prize is awarded to Pinchas Goldschmidt “in recognition of his outstanding efforts to promote peace, the right of all peoples to self-determination, European values, tolerance, pluralism and understanding, and in acknowledgement of his significant commitment to interreligious and intercultural dialogue”.

The chairman of the Charlemagne Prize Board of Directors, Jürgen Linden, emphasised that the Charlemagne Prize does not take a position on the Middle East conflict, but supports the opinion of the designated laureate Goldschmidt, who calls for a long-term ceasefire, lasting peace and the right of peoples to self-determination.

Last year’s recipient was Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Since 2008, the Charlemagne Youth Prize is awarded two days prior to the Charlemagne Prize. Each year, the European Parliament and the International Charlemagne Prize Foundation launch a competition targeted at young people between 16 and 30 across all member states who actively participate in shaping Europe and promote European understanding. 

This year, Sisterhood Pathways, a project from Lithuania that is aiming at combatting violence against women in the Baltics has won the Charlemagne Youth Prize – taking home 7.500 Euros.

This article is published weekly. The content is based on news by agencies participating in the enr.