Updated | EU’s 60th birthday marked by calls to defend citizens’ rights, unity

Joseph Muscat at Rome Summit: ‘Let’s not go down in history as the ones who dismantled a 60-year-old project that has brought peace and prosperity’

miriam
Miriam Dalli
25 March 2017, 10:27am
Last updated on 25 March 2017, 1:01pm
The EU leaders gathered in the same room where the Treaties of Rome were signed 60 years ago
The EU leaders gathered in the same room where the Treaties of Rome were signed 60 years ago
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Council President Donald Tusk, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni led the celebrations in Rome
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Council President Donald Tusk, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni led the celebrations in Rome
Gathered in Rome at the Palazzo dei Conservatori where the Treaties of Rome were signed on 25 March 1957, the 27 leaders of the European Union today renewed their vows for “greater unity and solidarity” amongst them.

One by one, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni and the Presidents of the EU Institutions – Jean Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Antonio Tajani – reminded the EU leaders of the values and principles upon which the foundations of European Union were laid.

60 years ago, Britain had shunned the new European community at its creation, but finally joined in 1973.

Today, reeling from the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, the remaining 27 leaders signed the Rome Declaration, committing themselves “to a safe and secure, prosperous, competitive, sustainable and socially responsible” Union.

“Today is truly a proud moment but we need to retain our values,” EP President Antonio Tajani said.

“We must tell our sons and daughters that Europe is a great ideal and that it’s about our civilization, our history and our differences and it’s worth believing in and dedicating our future to pass on this dream to our children.”

 60 years ago in Rome, where the foundations of what would become the EU were laid
60 years ago in Rome, where the foundations of what would become the EU were laid
The five speeches strived to reassure EU citizens that the 60th anniversary was not just posturing, but an opportunity for the leaders to commit themselves to fight populism and to focus on the EU’s social dimension by protecting civil rights and liberties and concentrating on economic growth.

In his speech, the Maltese Prime Minister reminded that Europe would not have been able to become “a force of prosperity”, hadn’t it embarked on the Single Market project.

“Most suffering and misery of the last century were the consequences of narrow sightedness, with blinded protectionism being the key ingredients.

“Unfortunately, there are instances where lessons have not been learnt. It is so easy to forget the big problems that plagued our continent when things have been so good for so long. It is easy to take Europe for granted.”

Muscat argued that reflecting on the values that molded Europe was not about “being romantic”.

“The future European Union should reflect the inherent realities of each member state, without ignoring the continuous evolvement of our global environment. As the EU’s biggest deficit is implementation, we should focus on making decision-making simpler, effective and efficient and resilient to withstand any future shocks that may come its way.”

Muscat warned that continued inaction will truly lead to the end of the EU: “Doing nothing is certainly not an option, unless we want to go down in history as the ones who dismantled a 60-year-old project that has brought forth peace and prosperity across Europe.”

Muscat, whose country currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, argued that the EU does deliver tangible results – once which are not even noticed when citizens cross borders or when consumers compare prices in the same currency.

As migration remains one of the main issues that divides Europe, Muscat warned that all leaders should respect the principles enshrined in the Treaties: “[The principle of solidarity] is not an à la carte option which you ask for when you need it and refuse when others need it. All of us have needed, or will need solidarity. This is our real test. And I am not just referring to migration. It has to do with security, the economy and social issues.”

He argued that citizens may today not be experiencing the social advancement experienced in the past, leading to skepticism in the EU project.

“The success of the Union hinges on our ability to implement the social pillar. It is the crux of a strong European future together. We should give our people the protection they expect, without confounding it with protectionism.”

Ahead of the Rome Summit, the European Commission presented a White Paper on the Future of Europe, to serve as an opportunity for EU leaders to focus on what they for the EU’s future.

European Council President Donald Tusk delivered an impassionate plea to the leaders, telling them that “to build a free world requires time, great effort and sacrifice.”

Eliciting applause from the leaders, Tusk said: “Only a united Europe can lead to a sovereign Europe, and only that guarantees freedom to its citizens. Unity is not a bureaucratic model, but a set of democratic standards. It’s not enough to call for unity and protest a multi-speed Europe. It’s much more important to respect our common rules such as human rights, civil liberties, the freedom of speech and assembly, checks and balances and the rule of law. That is the true foundation of our unity.”

miriam
Miriam Dalli joined MaltaToday.com.mt in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...