On Saturday, 25 March, the whole of Europe celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. In signing these documents in Rome in March 1957, the Heads of Government of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg laid the foundations for a project which, along with the European Coal and Steel Community, was to develop over six decades into the world’s biggest project for freedom, peace and prosperity: the European Union.
European Union means peace
The official celebrations in Rome last weekend gave the Heads of State and Government of the 27 EU member states and the representatives of the EU institutions an opportunity to renew their commitment to a shared European future. In a joint declaration they expressed their determination to tackle the challenges facing Europe together and strengthen the European Union in future through even greater unity and solidarity amongst them and respect for common rules. The declaration ended with a renewed commitment to the main message of the celebrations: “We have united for the better. Europe is our common future.”
The Rome Agenda contained in the Declaration sets out the key issues on which the EU is to focus during the next ten years: (1) greater internal security, (2) the promotion of prosperity and sustainability, (3) more social justice and (4) a more decisive and stronger role for the EU on the global scene.
For many EU citizens, the anniversary was a chance to express their desire for a strong and democratic EU based on the principle of solidarity. In Rome and more than 30 other European cities, including Berlin, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Luxembourg, Madrid, Paris, Vilnius and Warsaw, thousands of people took to the streets.
More than six decades of European unity – a success story
The celebrations also provide us with an opportunity to look back on this grand project and to remind ourselves of what it actually means to be a citizen of the European Union.
For us, firstly and most importantly, it means peace. Never before has there been such a long period of peace in Europe – 70 years now. This was made possible by the decision of the European states, in the wake of two devastating World Wars, to focus on what they had in common, to prevent war in Europe for good and to find a peaceful form of cooperation. Differences of opinion are no longer resolved on the battlefield, but in an institutional framework. For this, the founding members transferred some of their sovereignty.
“Nowhere in the world can people live as freely and with as much democracy as in Europe,” was Foreign Minister Gabriel's summary recently at a European policy workshop with the public at the Federal Foreign Office. European cooperation was the 20th century’s greatest project for civilisation, and it has helped to overcome animosities and conflicts in Europe. “That’s something worth caring about.”
The common market secures jobs and prosperity
The EU is also celebrating great success as an economic area. The EU single market is the world’s largest internal market. From a global perspective, the EU member states in concert are a major economic player and can shape globalisation. With its 500 million people, the single market is an attractive trading partner. “Our children and grandchildren will only be heard in the world if Europe speaks with one voice,” stressed Gabriel.
The EU single market is a key instrument to secure employment and prosperity for Europe’s citizens. It also ensures equal opportunities and protection for the individual: workers enjoy comprehensive protection against discrimination at work and in the application process. Expectant mothers enjoy special protection, and companies are not allowed to form cartels to dictate prices. All this is guaranteed, thanks to the EU.
The EU is a success story. That is why we want to continue along the path of cooperation, working together to find solutions.