Celebrations: Troubled EU renews vows on 60th anniversary

With Britain missing, other 27 countries sign new declaration


Afp March 26, 2017
PHOTO: FILE

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.

With British Prime Minister Theresa May absent, 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.

Pro- and anti-EU protests took place in Rome, while in London tens of thousands of people marched against Brexit, which May will trigger on Wednesday.

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With the EU facing a string of crises on top of Brexit including migration, a moribund economy, terrorism and populism, EU President Donald Tusk called for stronger leadership.

“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.

After welcoming the leaders to the Renaissance-era Palazzo dei Conservatori, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said: “We have had 60 years of peace in Europe and we owe it to the courage of the founding fathers.”

The original Treaty of Rome was signed by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and West Germany to create the European Economic Community (EEC).

The new Rome Declaration that the leaders signed, using the same pen that was used six decades ago, 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 said that “a Europe of different speeds does not mean at all that there is no common Europe”.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker insisted the EU could ride out recent storms.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2017.

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