China / World

EU leaders sign unity pledge on 60th birthday

By Xinhua (China Daily) Updated: 2017-03-27 07:50

Rome declaration aims to reaffirm bloc's values amid 'daunting' challenges

ROME - European Union leaders on Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Treaty of Rome, with a major ceremony in the Italian capital.

The heads of state and government of 27 member states, and top EU officials, were welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi at the Capitoline Hill, where the treaty that ushered in the start of the EU was signed on March 25, 1957.

The summit was meant as both a commemorative event and a "decisive moment" for the EU, given Britain's unprecedented decision to leave the Union and other major challenges facing the bloc.

"Today, we celebrate the perseverance and the cleverness of EU's founding fathers, which has its best proof in this crowded hall," Gentiloni said in his opening speech.

"We were six in 1957, and now we are 27," he added, referring to leaders of the six founding member states: Italy, France, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, who witnessed the birth of the Treaty of Rome.

The Treaty established the European Economic Community, which later paved the way for the EU.

In his address, Gentiloni also recalled many achievements of the European integration project, while acknowledging that the EU has found itself unprepared and responding late to major recent challenges such as migration, the economic crisis and unemployment, among others.

"This has triggered a rejection in segments of the public opinion, and rekindled nationalist forces that we thought were buried in the past," he said.

He added that the trust of EU citizens would need to be restored by stimulating growth, tackling social inequalities and reaffirming common European values.

According to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, only unity would ensure the bloc's survival as a political entity.

"Either Europe will be united, or it will not be at all," Tusk said at the ceremony.

All 27 leaders later signed the "Declaration of Rome", which is designed to revive the fundamental principles of EU's integration and outline its future perspectives.

Previous objections from Poland and Greece on the blueprint - which is based around a multispeed Europe and the EU's austerity policies - were lifted ahead of the ceremony.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker expressed confidence in the bloc's ability to overcome difficulties.

"As much as they are daunting, today's challenges are not at all comparable to those faced by our founding fathers," Junker said, referring to the fact that Europe's integration process stemmed from the destruction of World War II.

The celebrations took place amid strict security, with much of the city's historical center behind barricades and about 5,000 law enforcement officials deployed at key intersections and vantage points around the city.

A no-fly order was also issued for Rome airspace.

The alert had been raised following the terror attack in London on March 22.

EU leaders sign unity pledge on 60th birthday

People attend the "I Love Europe" march which was called to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday. Reuters

Hot Topics