‘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’.
Robert Schuman, 9 May 1950
There are events in history that help societies and civilization to move forward, that inspire ideas that shape humankind. Today we celebrate Europe and the foundation that is the Schuman declaration. The declaration set in motion the process of European integration and inspired a whole new era of cooperation between countries, based on the preservation of peace.
To mark the occasion, I invited the EDPS and EDPB trainees to share their aspirations for the future. I am struck by how closely they align with Schuman’s vision for Europe. They remind us that now more than ever, Europeans are ready to defend and further aliment the European project and its values. I hope you will be as uplifted by their reflections as I am.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Schuman declaration, a statement that ultimately led to the EU as we know it. Under the circumstances, it’s a bittersweet celebration, but a reminder that the pillars of Schuman’s speech - reconciliation, peace and solidarity - are more relevant than ever.
Reflecting on the past and future of the EU, we appreciate enormously the extraordinary value in these extraordinary times of three fundamental notions of the EU: Solidarity, Free Movement and Data Protection.
European solidarity has been a fact of life for us from birth. EU citizenship has allowed us to benefit from educational and volunteering programmes, financial aid and funds for infrastructure projects, to name but a few. For these and much more, we are grateful.
In our lifetime, we have witnessed the changing contours of the European Union, welcoming new members and saying goodbye to our neighbours. It brings home to us that in situations of great historical importance, we grow stronger together.
This pandemic calls for a pressing need for dynamic, effective and long-term European solidarity. This situation is forcing us to reassess the impact that we can make and the responsibilities that we have towards each other.
Has this crisis really shown us that we are better together? We believe it has, on many levels. Solidarity takes many different forms and has proven effective in the current crisis. The act of staying home and social distancing is an act of solidarity that all EU citizens are making.
Until very recently, we millennials had never experienced travel restrictions in the EU. Each of us comes from a different country in the EU and the limitation on the freedom of movement as we embarked on our traineeships, has been a huge shock for us - or at least one that has a very real impact on our daily lives. It has been the cornerstone of our European citizenship and one that we have often taken for granted.
For many of us, the EU has been more than a political and economic union, it has been a single, unique entity that belonged to us without restrictions. For us, travelling to Berlin from Budapest was no different to travelling from Brussels to Ghent. We know that constraints to our free movement are a necessary and proportionate measure during this public health crisis. We accept the constraints for the greater good.
Despite the challenges, we realise how fortunate we are as European citizens. Even if certain values may have been temporarily threatened, many more will be strengthened as a result. Once we can move freely again, we intend to fully enjoy and unequivocally defend our precious rights.
Now more than ever, we all miss social contact. We are connected by what we tell others, we are also protected by our privacy rights should we choose not to share. In our digital world, whenever we share pictures, shop online or simply check our email, we leave crumbs of data which can be traced, mined and, analysed sometimes for our benefit, sometimes at our expense.
For young Europeans, data protection is taken for granted in the same way as free movement. This is why it is important to remember that in Europe, we have a right to the protection of our data. Data protection is a fundamental right that guarantees that we feel safe, especially in the digital sphere, which has become a lifeline for many of us in lockdown.
Both before the pandemic and during it, we’ve seen increasing calls for cooperation in data protection across Europe. Authorities from different fields, such as data protection, competition and consumer protection, are working together more than ever, pooling their knowledge to find a solution to multi-faceted digital issues. We’re confident that this cooperation means that our right to data protection will remain guaranteed.
We were born in an EU which promotes peace, the well-being of its citizens, and the safeguarding of our rights. We demand a future in which the founding ideals of the EU are maintained.
On the 70th anniversary of his declaration, we realise that without the Union that Robert Schuman paved the way for, we would not be sharing our thoughts here today. We want future generations to enjoy the same opportunities we have. A traineeship at the EDPS and the EDPB is a way for us to do our part in ensuring such opportunities continue. Happy Europe Day everyone! #EuropeansAgainstCovid19
Ádám László, Anastasia Pavlou, Anna Zsófia Horváth, Clodagh Crumlish, Isabel Fernández Del Campo Aguiló, Laura Jurinich, Michaela Germanou, Siméon de Brouwer