EU leaders sign Rome Declaration to cement union

25 Mar 2017


Leaders of 27 European Union countries today signed a new declaration committing themselves to further integrate the Continent, which is beset with a series of crises, including Britan's exit from the union.

Proclaiming ''Europe is our common future,'' 27 EU leaders today signed the declaration in Rome, during a meeting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

Leaders of the 27 member states signed Rome Declaration at a meeting on the Capitoline Hill, where the six original states signed the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957.

European Commission head, Jean-Claude Juncker, spoke of a new mood of optimism about the way forward.

"The atmosphere is now such that we can approach this with confidence," he said, referring to the future of the bloc as Britain leaves.

"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," European Council President Donald Tusk said.

The declaration, signed on the date the union's foundations were laid 60 years ago, underscored the aspirations of a ''unique union with common institutions and strong values, a community of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.''

However, the leaders acknowledged that they were ''facing unprecedented challenges, both global and domestic'' including ''regional conflicts, terrorism, growing migratory pressures, protectionism and social and economic inequalities.''

The ceremony took place in a hall here in Rome that was richly decorated in frescoes depicting scenes from the ancient world. It is the same room where the Treaty of Rome was signed on March 25, 1957, by six countries. That event helped lay the groundwork for today's union.

Moments after signing, Christian Kern, the Austrian chancellor, raised his fists in triumph. Each leader received a sustained round of applause as he or she signed the declaration. Some gathered after the ceremony to look over the declaration, and others took photos with their cellphones to mark the milestone for the European project.

Meanwhile, in a speech at the Vatican on Friday, Pope Francis pointedly warned the leaders, including President François Hollande of France, that their union ''risks dying'' as nations, and citizens, turned inward.

Underlining the union's disaffection, more than 25,000 people, many of them angered by years of cutbacks and belt-tightening, marched through central Rome, where security was already tight in light of the deadly rampage in central London on Wednesday.

Protesters targeted the single currency, the euro, seen by many as unfairly benefiting some countries like Germany while imposing painful austerity on other nations like Greece.

There was also rising dissatisfaction with Europe's claims to moral leadership in human rights since the introduction of tougher policies to limit the entry of refugees and migrants fleeing war-torn and poverty stricken countries in the Middle East and Africa.

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