PARIS – Today was May 9th, a celebration throughout Europe with varying significations. In the East, it is Victory Day, the date at which the Soviet Union defeated the Nazis to end the Second World War almost seventy years ago. In the West, it is Europe Day, the commemoration of the speech of French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann which established in 1950 the foundations of what would become the European Union.
In a way, this day illustrates the struggles of the divided European continent, which at times seems nostalgic of the former order set up by the Cold War.
May 9th was thus the occasion for Russian President Vladimir Putin to make a political statement by visiting Crimea for the first time since its annexation. In Russia, this day is seen as the fight of the East against fascism, which, in the eyes of the Russians and a fraction of the Ukrainian population, is the very thing infecting the new Kiev government. In a way, May 9th can be seen as a commemoration of the former glory of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, the Union is preoccupied by its date with destiny at the end of the month. Will the wave of Euroscepticism engulf the European Parliament, as predicted by several European experts and media? EU citizens are hoping for change, one way or another.
The degree to which the day was celebrated has accordingly varied depending on the member state. In the Netherlands, a Green MEP called for Dutch people to come out with their love of the Union. Here in Paris, the buses wore the French and European colors colors throughout the day, and in Strasbourg young Europeans gathered in front of the EU buildings to discuss its future.
Despite this internal questioning, the Union still tries to find its international voice. Yet French President François Hollande is currently meeting Angela Merkel in Germany to discuss the situation in Ukraine, in the continuation of a state-oriented model that has taken away much of the credibility of Catherine Ashton over the last years.
Nevertheless, Ukraine remains a battlefield after months of internal conflict. After the Kiev demonstrators successfully obtained the resignation of the country’s president and the nomination by the Parliament of a new temporary government, armed men took over the Crimean government and military buildings before the region itself declared it would join the Russian Federation.
The separatist movement has now spread to several parts of Eastern Ukraine, leaving a trail of death in its midst. Today, over twenty people died in the attack of the police headquarters in the Eastern city of Mariupol, in the Donetsk region.