What is ‘Europe Day’ and what does it mean to you?

Europe Day is celebrated across Europe - and the world - annually on the 9th May to encourage Europeans to get closer, regardless of different cultures and borders.

What is 'Europe Day' and what does it mean to you?
Photo: nito103/Depositphotos

On the 9th May 1950, the former French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed The Schuman Declaration, presenting the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). To begin with, it was just a deal between France and West Germany to pool steel and coal industries to keep the peace after World War II.

Membership grew and in little more than a year came to include Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Luxembourg. This declaration marked the beginning of a long series of supranational European institutions leading to the formation of the now so-called 'European Union'.

It was not until 1985 that the European Council in Milan adopted the 9th May and named it ‘Europe Day’.

But why celebrate the founding of the ECSC and not the European Union?

The ECSC was the first community established at the end of the World War II aiming to enhance peace and encourage economic growth. It enabled the integration of the European population over the years before the European Union was founded in 1993.

Besides, there are various reasons behind the decision to celebrate ‘Europe Day’.

The European Council wanted to help citizens integrate by building a sense of European identity among the different member-states populations. This sense of belonging was made easier by establishing different ‘European items’ like the ‘European emblem’, which is reminiscent of a national flag. These items would have been legally protected by the European Constitution. However, in 2005 the treaty failed, and it was replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon which still upholds the symbols.

The issues encountered by the European Union while trying to enhance this European Identity can be also be found among European citizens themselves.

Arantxa Saloni (pictured above), 28, from Barcelona, moved to Stockholm four years ago and admits to SI News that “Europe means being part of the same group, but I always say that I am Spanish, or Catalan, not European; I am from the world as there are no barriers.”

She adds: “Europe has a meaning for those of us who want to travel around; it makes things a little bit easier, but I still think the European Union should do a bit more. It is not just about removing physical borders, but the administration should facilitate integration. And even if every nation has its own laws, they should take care of the European citizens.”

The members of the European Union have been trying to spread this sense of belonging since 1993, when the European Union – as we know it now – was founded. And since then, the importance of Europe Day among the different members increased exponentially.

For instance in Warsaw, Poland, the Schuman Parade is often organized during Europe Day to celebrate the accession of Poland in the EU.

In Germany instead of celebrating just one day, they introduced ‘Europe Week’ (Europawoche). These events show how being part of the European Union is crucial for member states.  

Zeir Ljung (pictured above), 56, from Stockholm, positively says that “being part of Europe means I have relations. I have relatives in Germany, France and in Denmark. It is like being a big family, a community”.

Despite creating a community among different populations with different backgrounds, not everybody feels part of it – or felt part of it.

Daniella Subuola (pictured above), 20, from London says: “I don’t really feel part of Europe and I would never say I am European, mostly because of the geographical position of the UK. I have never felt European and I feel it even less now. I voted to stay in the EU due to the possible travel and business restrictions […] but I feel like the UK is on its own lane.”

The European Union has changed over years; it has improved its structure and tried to establish a common identity among members. However, most of its population still firmly identify themselves not as European, rather as citizens of their country of origin. Some may feel part of the ‘big family’, some believe that is good to be part of it, others not, but it seems most associate Europe with something safe, positive and with a wide range of benefits.



Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.