E.U. cel­e­brates 60 years by sign­ing unity pledge

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY RAF CASERT AND FRANCES D’EMILIO

rome — With Bri­tain poised to start di­vorce pro­ceed­ings, the 27 re­main­ing Euro­pean Union na­tions put pen to pa­per Satur­day in Rome to re­new their vows for con­tin­ued unity in the face of crises that are in­creas­ingly test­ing the bonds be­tween mem­bers.

The E.U. na­tions marked the 60th an­niver­sary of their found­ing treaty as a turn­ing point in their his­tory, as Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May will of­fi­cially trig­ger di­vorce pro­ceed­ings from the bloc next week — a fact that Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker called “a tragedy.”

De­ter­mined to show that unity is the only way ahead in a glob­al­ized world, the E.U. lead­ers were able to walk away from a sum­mit with­out ac­ri­mony, which was al­ready sort of a vic­tory.

“We didn’t have a ma­jor clash or con­flict, con­trary to what many thought,” Juncker said.

E.U. Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk said that sus­tained unity was the only way for the E.U. to sur­vive.

“Europe as a po­lit­i­cal en­tity will ei­ther be united, or will not be at all,” he told E.U. lead­ers at a solemn ses­sion in the same or­nate hall on the an­cient Capi­to­line Hill where the Treaty of Rome, which founded the union, was signed on March 25, 1957.

To move ahead though, the E.U. lead­ers rec­og­nized that full unity on all things will be un­work­able. Pushed by sev­eral West­ern Euro­pean na­tions, they en­shrined a pledge to give mem­ber na­tions more free­dom to form par­tial al­liances and set pol­icy when una­nim­ity is out of reach.

“We will act to­gether, at dif­fer­ent paces and in­ten­sity where nec­es­sary, while mov­ing in the same di­rec­tion,” said the Rome Dec­la­ra­tion signed by the 27 na­tions.

The E.U. has of­ten used a mul­ti­speed ap­proach in the past, with only 19 na­tions us­ing the shared euro cur­rency and not all mem­bers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Schen­gen bor­der­less travel zone. The ap­proach has al­ready been ex­tended to so­cial leg­is­la­tion and even di­vorce rules among E.U. na­tion­als.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel sought to as­suage fears that it would lead to a fur­ther un­rav­el­ing of unity.

“The Europe of dif­fer­ent speeds does not in any way mean that it is not a com­mon Europe,” Merkel said after the cer­e­mony. “We are say­ing here very clearly that we want to go in a com­mon di­rec­tion. And there are things that are not ne­go­tiable” — the E.U. free­dom of move­ment for goods, peo­ple and ser­vices.

With Bri­tain leav­ing, the man­tle of re­cal­ci­trant mem­ber seems to have been taken over by Poland. Still, Pol­ish Prime Min­is­ter Beata Szydlo, un­miss­able in a bright yel­low jacket, was more sub­dued than at the last E.U. sum­mit two weeks ago, when she re­fused to adopt con­clu­sions that need una­nim­ity. Poland also balked at sign­ing the new treaty un­til the eve of the cer­e­mony.

“The Rome dec­la­ra­tion is the first stop to­ward re­new­ing the unity of the E.U.,” Szydlo told re­porters.

AN­DREI PUNGOVSCHI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES

A child peeks through a “wind vent” hole of a huge Euro­pean Union flag ban­ner dur­ing a pro-Europe rally, on Satur­day in Bucharest, Ro­ma­nia. Don­ald Tusk, pres­i­dent of the E.U. Coun­cil, says that sus­tained unity on the part of mem­ber states is the only way for the or­ga­ni­za­tion to sur­vive.

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