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Victory in Europe Day and Europe Day: Celebrations of Peace and Unity

European Parliament in Strasbourg, France

European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, © picture alliance / | Daniel Kalker

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On May 8th, the continent of Europe commemorates a pivotal moment in history — the Victory in Europe Day (VE Day).

This day marks the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces in 1945, effectively ending the war in Europe. The announcement triggered widespread celebrations across the Allied nations, symbolizing the conclusion of a devastating conflict and the beginning of a new era of peace.

In the aftermath of World War II, much of Europe was left physically devastated and politically destabilized. This destruction underscored the urgent need for peace, stability, and increased cooperation to rebuild and secure the continent's future. This recognition led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, a precursor to what would eventually become the European Union, aimed at increasing economic interdependence to prevent future conflicts.

Europe Day, celebrated annually on May 9th, commemorates this new era of cooperation. The date marks the presentation of the Schuman Declaration by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950. Schuman's visionary proposal sought to eradicate the root causes of war between European nations by establishing a supranational European institution. The declaration laid the groundwork for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, intended to make war among member states unthinkable.

For many Western European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, and the Benelux states, the period since 1945 represents the longest phase of continuous peace in their modern history. This is particularly significant considering that many of these nations were involved in both world wars and numerous other conflicts before. The establishment of the European Union and its predecessors has greatly contributed to this period of peace. Despite local conflicts in some regions of Europe since 1945, the extended period of peace across much of Western and Central Europe is a historical success.

The back-to-back commemorations remind us of the stark contrast between the past horrors of conflict and the present benefits of unity, prompting reflection on the importance of preserving peace through collective effort and mutual respect. Together, they reflect a journey from the ashes of war to the blossoming of a united community that champions cooperation over conflict.

However, Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine introduces new challenges, underscoring the persistent threats to peace and stability in Germany and Western Europe, and emphasizing the critical need for vigilance and unity.

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