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EU leaders sign new declaration marking 60 years since the Treaty of Rome

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters, AFP
EU leaders sign new declaration marking 60 years since the Treaty of Rome

EU leaders have met in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the bloc’s founding treaty.

The 27 national leaders gathered in the Campidoglio palace where the six founding states signed the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957.

They have signed a new declaration in honour of the 1957 Treaty.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani told those gathered in Rome we are not tired of Europe, but we want it to work better.

“There have been too many mistakes, it is not complete, it is often removed from real issues, divided, powerless, too bureaucratic,” Tajani said.

“As European Parliament president, the growing disenchantment among citizens worries me. We cannot progress without bringing Europe closer to the people.”

A “watered-down” declaration of unity

Without the so-called Brexit looming, the summit in the opulent palazzo where founding members France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg signed the original treaty, might have been modestly hopeful.

All the member states’ economies are growing after the slump of the last decade. Recent chaos at Europe’s borders has abated as refugees are, for now, held in check.

But the impending Brexit has undermined the Union’s self-confidence and has also encouraged eurosceptic nationalist movements.

Leaders have been obliged to water-down a grand birthday declaration of unity.

“We have united for the better,” the text concludes. “Europe is our common future.”

But it may disappoint those who think more ambition and coordination is the answer to Europe’s problems.

UK absent

British Prime Minister Theresa May was conspicuous by her absence.

May will write to EU summit chairman Donald Tusk this coming Wednesday to formally announce that the UK is beginning a two-year period of negotiations to leave the Union.

Britain shunned the new European community when it was created, later joining in 1973. The country voted to leave in a referendum last June.

What the Pope says

At the Vatican on Friday, Pope Francis told Europe’s leaders the continent faces a “vacuum of values”.

The pontiff condemned anti-immigrant populism and extremism that he said posed a moral threat to the Union.

“When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying,” Pope Francis said.