European Union leaders have signed the new EU constitution in a glittering ceremony in the Italian capital, Rome.
The lavish pageant was staged on the Capitoline Hill in the same Renaissance hall where the EU’s six founding nations signed the original Treaty of Rome. The EU heads of state were also joined by leaders of Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia – the four countries moving towards joining the bloc. The new constitution is designed to streamline Europe’s decision making process and change the voting system to give more weight to bigger states. The ceremony has launched a race among the most enthusiastic EU members to be first to endorse the treaty. Italy says it will beat the rest. But there is still a long way to go. The agreement needs to be ratified by every member state before it can become law, and with polls suggesting seven out of ten Europeans feel they know nothing or very little about it, the big job remains of convincing the public. Britain says it will likely hold a referendum in early 2006. France, Spain and Portugal have said they will vote next year. EU leaders will no doubt be hoping that the pomp, pagentry and sense of history from today’s celebrations will in some way stimulate enthusiasm for the newly enlarged Europe.