Rome : European Union leaders renewed their vows at a special summit in Rome on Saturday, celebrating the troubled bloc’s 60th anniversary with a commitment to a common future without Britain.
Meeting without Britain just days before it triggers its divorce. from the EU, the other 27 countries signed a new declaration on the Capitoline Hill where six founding states signed the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957.
With the EU facing crises including migration, a moribund economy, terrorism and populism, as well as Brexit, EU President Donald Tusk called for leadership to shore up the bloc.
“Prove today that you are the leaders of Europe, that you can care for this great legacy we inherited from the heroes of European integration 60 years ago,” Tusk said.
“It is it a bit of a tighter squeeze in the room today” than when the original six states signed up, joked Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni after welcoming the leaders to the Renaissance-era Palazzo dei Conservatori for a ceremony long on pomp and short on real politics.
“We have had 60 years of peace in Europe and we owe it to the courage of the founding fathers,” Gentiloni said, adding that after recent crises “we have to start again and we have the strength to do that.”
The Rome Declaration that the leaders signed, followed by a round of applause, proclaims that “Europe is our common future” in a changing world.
But it also enshrines for the first time a so-called “multi-speed” Europe, in which some countries can push ahead on key issues while others sit out, an idea pushed by France and Germany but opposed by many eastern EU states.
French President Francois Hollande said the message from Rome was, “we’re stronger together,” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed: “a great day for Europe.”
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who signed the declaration with a pen used by representative from his native Luxembourg to sign the original Treaty of Rome, insisted the EU could ride out recent storms. AFP