Leaders hailed the visionary “war generation” of leaders from old foes France and Germany who signed the Treaty of Rome in the same room on March 25, 1957, along with Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands; some offered personal memories of their own generation’s debts to the expanding European Union.
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk called for leadership to steer Europe out of crisis at a special summit in Rome on Saturday to mark the 60th anniversary of the bloc’s founding treaties.
“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,” former Polish prime minister Tusk said in a speech.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, 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.
“That really was a two-speed Europe,” he said in a pointed dig at his domestic foes now ruling in Warsaw, who have tried to block a push by the western powers to deepen their integration.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said this was not the Europe that we dreamed of, adding however, that “There is no doubt that there is no other way than to fight within Europe to change it”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that leaders wanted to respond to people’s concerns, about the economy, immigration and military threats with “a protective Europe”.
All 27 national leaders, along with the heads of Brussels institutions, signed a declaration which concluded: “We have united for the better. Europe is our common future.”