The event marks the anniversary of the day in 1950 when Robert Schuman, one of the founders of the EU, made his 'Schuman Declaration', outlining a vision to unite separate European states into a single community. He understood the process would be gradual:
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.
Still fresh from the trauma of World War II, Schuman hoped his plan would ensure peace – and particularly peace between France and Germany – in the future. He proposed pooling the coal and steel production of different European countries and argued that this common venture would 'make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.'
The European Steel and Coal Community created after Schuman's speech eventually grew into today's European Union. The original six members (France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) now number 28.