In 1941, while interned on Ventotene island just off the coast of Italy, Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi penned ‘For a Free and United Europe’, a founding text urging the creation of a united Europe built on federalist principles. This document, also known as the Ventotene Manifesto, was secreted off the island and into the hands of the Italian resistance by Ursula Hirschmann, married to Eugenio Colorni, another intellectual who had been confined to the island and contributed to the editing of the document.
Eighty years on, the Istituto di Studi Federalisti Altiero Spinelli is celebrating the anniversary of the manifesto by dedicating their annual international seminar for young people in Ventotene to the theme ‘Federalism in Europe and the World: From the Monetary Union to the United States of Europe’.
The HAEU’s exhibition and educational project ‘Europe and Europeans 1950-2020: 70th Anniversary of the Schuman Declaration’ has been included in the seminar. The Archives holds a clandestine copy of the Manifesto in its collections, along with the archives of Spinelli and Rossi.
Leslie Hernandez, Coordinator of Educational Projects at the HAEU, along with a group of high school students from Lazio who have followed the educational project, presented the work, tracing the themes of unity and freedom across the documents and inviting participants to reflect on what it means to share in the European heritage, today.
European integration: from idea to implementation to identity
The highschool students speaking at the seminar were a vivid reminder that they, as citizens, also represent Europe. Camilla Pasqualini, a student who attends the Liceo Statale Joyce di Arriccia, expanded on the importance of inter-generational exchange, urging that young people, and the perspectives of youth, should be included in our idea of what it means to be European.
Noting that the authors of the Ventotene Manifesto called for ‘new men’ to realise a free and united Europe, her classmate Sara Troiani adds that from her point of view, it is still an ongoing struggle to find a European identity united in ‘shared values’ and solidarity that extend beyond the simple economic and political union of the 27 member states. Elements of this are visible, she finds, in the unity that has been demonstrated during the COVID crisis, where Europe united in its efforts to develop and provide a vaccine to citizens.
Another student from the school, Naomi Ntumba, appreciates Spinelli and Rossi’s attention to diversity: ‘every people, individual in its ethnic, linguistic and historical characteristics […]’. In her comments, she elaborates on how, despite the diverse peoples across Europe, respect for the various cultures remains a fundamental value. For Ntumba, ‘the diversity of each population, even of every individual, demonstrates a free and united Europe.’
Her classmate Massimo Rufi instead commented on the connections between European countries found in families of mixed nationalities. Massimo, who was born in the Ukraine but is the son of two Italians, feels solidly European, with feet in both Eastern and Western Europe.
So what does Europe mean to these young people?
As one student wrote, “Europe for me is like the moon, almost always in sight, always present. It seems that it moves around you with little consequence, but in reality it contributes to our well-being in direct ways, although we may not realise it then and there.”
(Pictured, from left: Sara Troiani, Naomi Ntumba, Leslie Hernández Nova, Camilla Pasqualini e Massimo Rufo)