Celebrating the bloc’s 60th anniversary with a commitment to a common future without Britain.
Meeting without British Prime Minister Theresa May, the other 27 member countries signed a declaration of unity 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 in a speech.
The Rome Declaration that the leaders signed proclaims that “Europe is our common future”, and sets out the path for the next decade in a rapidly changing world.
“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, acknowledging that a string of crises had combined to bring the process of European integration to a standstill.
“When the iron curtain fell in 1989 we thought their dream had been realised but (recent crises) have shown us that history is anything but finished.
“We have to start again and we have the strength to do that.”
– ‘Shoulders of giants’ -European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker also insisted the EU could ride out recent storms.
“Daunting as they are, the challenges we face today are in no way comparable to those faced by the founding fathers,” he said, recalling how the new Europe was built from the ashes of World War II.
“We are standing on the shoulders of giants,” Juncker said, voicing confidence that the EU would still be around to celebrate its 100th birthday.