Monday 5 May was Europe Day which marks the anniversary of the founding of the Council of Europe on 5 May 1949. This anniversary has been officially marked since 1964. Friday 9 May is also designated Europe Day, and it celebrates the foundation of the European Union, so you could say that this is Europe Week! In yesterday’s assembly Xavy Bull (Year 9 Raleigh), Immy Kerr (Year 9 Raleigh), Tom Saunders (Year 9 Raleigh) and Lottie Jordan (Year 9 Howe) talked to the School about Europe and the European Union.
Xavy: The European Union (or EU) is a family of European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity. Each country has to pay money to be a member and the EU uses this money to change the way people live and do business in Europe. It was founded in 1957 and the first member states were: Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg. There are now 28 member countries, with Croatia being the latest to join on 01 July 2013. Many member states are also part of the Eurozone, which means that they have adopted the Euro as their currency: Southern Ireland is one of these. Britain joined the European Community in 1973, but has so far chosen not to adopt the Euro.
Immy: Europe has many diverse ethnic groups, languages and religions. It is highly built-up and is one of the world’s most heavily populated areas. It offers a vast array of interesting sights, from castles to windmills, from lakes and mountains to beautiful beaches, and from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the Parthenon in Athens: Europe has so much to offer, and we are part of it. We are lucky at RHS to have many pupils who live in other parts of Europe and who bring their own cultural heritage with them into this community. The European Union has 24 official and working languages. In no particular order, they are: Bulgarian, French, Maltese, Croatian, German, Polish, Czech, Greek, Portuguese, Danish, Hungarian, Romanian, Dutch, Irish, Slovak, English, Italian, Slovene, Estonian, Latvian, Spanish, Finnish, Lithuanian and Swedish. Most of these languages are represented here, too.
Tom: The EU’s mission in the 21st century is to maintain and build on the peace established between its member states; bring European countries together in practical cooperation; ensure that European citizens can live in security; promote economic and social solidarity; preserve European identity and diversity in a globalised world; and to promote and spread the values that Europeans share. The European Union is open to any European country that fulfils the democratic, political and economic criteria for membership. Successive enlargements have increased the EU’s membership from six to 28 countries, and others are negotiating membership. Each treaty admitting a new member requires the unanimous approval of all member states. In addition, in advance of each new enlargement, the EU must assess its capacity to absorb the new member and the ability of its institutions to continue to function properly. Enlarging the European Union has helped strengthen and stabilise democracy and security in Europe and increase the continent’s potential for trade and economic growth.
Lottie: What does it mean to be a citizen of Europe? Citizens of European Union countries can travel, live and work anywhere in the EU. The EU encourages and funds programmes, particularly in the fields of education and culture, to bring EU citizens closer together. People recognise symbols of shared European identity such as the single currency and the European flag and anthem, which based on the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The anthem’s name is Ode to Joy, and the tune is very familiar to us all, as we have been practising it with Mr Saunders in congo ready to sing it here together this morning. The anthem was launched via a major information campaign on Europe Day in 1972. In 1985, it was adopted by EU heads of State and government as the official anthem of the then European Community – since 1993 the European Union. It is not intended to replace the national anthems of the Member States but rather to celebrate the values they all share and their unity in diversity. It expresses the ideals of a united Europe: freedom, peace, and solidarity.