Top EU Leaders Commemorate 60th Anniversary of Treaty of Rome
January 22 2018, 08:28 | Irvin Gilbert
Armed police following major incidents outside the Houses of Parliament in central London
European Parliament President Tajani holds up a document signed by EU leaders. Some, such as the far-right group nationalist Forza Nuova waved blue European Union banners with F-K emblazoned across them. Organizers put the turnout at 6,000.
But days of wrangling about the wording of a 1,000-word Rome Declaration, May's impending Brexit confirmation and tens of thousands of protesters gathering beyond the tight police cordon around the Renaissance-era Palazzo dei Conservatori offered a more sober reminder of the challenges of holding the 27 nations to a common course.
Most of the people out today were young Italians, 87 per cent of whom, a recent poll by Italian pollster Doxa showed, want to stay in the EU.
An ISPOS poll published on Saturday showed just 24 percent of Italians thought the European Union brought Italy advantages, while 44 percent said it brought disadvantages.
The treaty set up the European Economic Community, a six-nation customs union that later led to the creation of the EU.
The populist, anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen is a strong contender.
The president of the European Commission also restated his view that the UK's departure from the bloc after more than 40 years was "a tragedy".
It remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain's national interest that the European Union should succeed both politically and economically.
The government critics fear that a recent euroskeptic stance taken by the government could ultimately result in Poland leaving the EU. The Polish government denies that that is its aim.
At the Vatican on Friday, Pope Francis told EU leaders that their Union had achieved much in 60 years but that Europe faced a "vacuum of values".
"We have united for the better", the text concludes.
Speaking in a lavishly frescoed room, he said: "Invoking upon Europe the Lord's blessings, I ask him to protect her and grant her peace and progress".
The Rome Declaration that the leaders will sign proclaims that "Europe is our common future", according to a copy obtained by Agence France-Presse, after a series of crises that have shaken its foundations.
"I do believe that we have renewed our trust in a common project with the symbolic act of signing the declaration ..."
"We in Benelux were alone at the beginning, but then one country after other joined because we saw that certain countries took us as hostages", he said, implicitly referring to Poland's unsuccessful fight against Council president Donald Tusk's reappointment earlier this month.
"Europe as a political entity will either be united, or will not be at all", he warned.
Eliciting applause from the leaders, Tusk said: "Only a united Europe can lead to a sovereign Europe, and only that guarantees freedom to its citizens".
A safe and secure Europe: a Union where all citizens feel safe and can move freely, where our external borders are secured, with an efficient, responsible and sustainable migration policy, respecting global norms; a Europe determined to fight terrorism and organised crime.
In that regard, the legacy of the Treaty of Rome is one of great historical achievement, and its anniversary marks the longest period of peace in Europe's written history.
European Union leaders gather for a family photo in Rome.
Fielding questions during a press conference later, Dr Muscat said the European Union would be moving forward in a way that respected the national identities and realities of member states.
But six decades on from that moment in 1957, it needs a new narrative. This allowed European Union exporting firms to flourish and create over 30 million jobs.
"We need new ideas and solutions to respond to today's challenges", Gentiloni said.
Francis said the world today required leaders to "discern" new paths, and identify "specific ways forward": they needed, he added, to recognise the "Christian and human values" of justice and freedom underpinning Europe.
He said there can not be "a hegemony of countries" that impose their will on others. The 27 leaders who do show up will publish a declaration that stops short of being a radical blueprint for the future. Many foreigners, including Hong Kong and Macau students, have also benefited from it. Even if Rome is a bitter-sweet anniversary, it is one they want to keep celebrating.