European Union summit: Leaders meet for Rome anniversary

26 March 2017, 12:46 | Shawn Tate

Armed police following major incidents outside the Houses of Parliament in central London

Armed police following major incidents outside the Houses of Parliament in central London

Tomorrow, the European Union will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which began the "European project" of closer integration between major European countries.

The declaration signed by the 27 nations said: "We will act together, at different paces and intensity where necessary, while moving in the same direction". "Some people will deem it to be overambitious, some will deem it to be not ambitious enough", Gentiloni added.

One by one they were greeted by the European council president, Donald Tusk, the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentilini, and Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, the state that now holds the rotating presidency of the council of the EU.

European Union leaders meeting there hope to emphasise the bloc's unity as Britain is expected to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, starting a two-year countdown to the country's departure.

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In the late morning, Rome time, the 27 European Union leaders signed a declaration that was both bland and optimistic, pledging to keep the common objective of peace and prosperity intact though admitting in the draft text that the European Union "is facing unprecedented challenges, both global and domestic: regional conflicts, terrorism, growing migratory pressure, protectionism and social and economic inequalities".

As thousands of supporters and opponents of the EU gathered on the street of the Eternal City, Tusk said he wanted to make everybody aware that "the European Union is not about slogans, it is not about procedures, it is not about regulations".

Tusk said: "Only a united Europe can be a sovereign Europe in relation to the rest of the world". But what will happen to the European Union? "Together we look forward to another sixty years and more of shared security and shared prosperity", the statement said.

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Poland, which seems poised to take over Britain's mantle of the most recalcitrant member, wanted more assurances that all its requirements were met and only agreed to the text on Friday, the eve of the summit.

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.

Speaking to reporters at the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for better border protection, saying: "We are looking toward the future".

Although Italy used to be one of the most pro-EU states in Europe, many people have become angry about the euro currency, which they believe is to blame for the country's economic decline since 1999.

Luxemburger Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Union chief executive, recalled his father's forced service in the World War Two German army; Donald Tusk, the summit chairman, born in Gdansk a month after the Treaty was signed, remembered growing up in the ruins of war and yearning for freedom behind the Iron Curtain. Guy Verhofstadt, the chief negotiator for the European Parliament, tells us today: "Both the United Kingdom and the EU stand to lose from this process, which is why we must work to mitigate the effects of the decision that has been taken".

Authorities fear anarchists might infiltrate anti-EU protests set for the afternoon.

The US was among those that sent congratulatory message to European Union leaders. The negotiation is not just about what is good for the United Kingdom; it is about what is good for the remaining European Union as well. The summit comes just days ahead of Britain's official notification on March 29 to leave the bloc.



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