EU to celebrate 50th anniversary

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As European leaders get ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome in Berlin on 25 March 2007, last-minute disagreements have emerged over a declaration outlining the EU’s major achievements and future perspectives.

The much-disputed text has been carefully prepared by the German Presidency following secret consultations with EU member states and institutions. 

Just days ahead of the declaration, Czech President Vaclav Klaus had criticised the “untransparent” method of drafting the text.

One of the main sticking points, the mention of the Constitutional Treaty as an outlook, was finally dropped, due to fierce opposition from member states such as the UK and Poland. Instead, it is likely only to refer to “a treaty” or more generally “institutional reform”.

Other disputed issues were whether to mention the euro and enlargement as EU achievements. The UK in the end did not oppose a reference to the euro, despite the fact that not all member states participate in the common currency. 

The EU member state’s view on enlargement and especially future enlargement diverge substantially. Some countries such as the UK support further enlargement, while for others this is a major concern, especially in France and the Netherlands, where enlargement played a role in the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty.

The text will also make no mention of the EU’s Judaeo-Christian roots, as this would have been unacceptable to member states with a strong secular tradition, such as France.

According to Commission sources, there will be a reference to 2009 as a target deadline for institutional reform, without specifically mentioning what form this may take. The German Presidency has underlined that the EU should have a new treaty agreed and ratified before the European elections in 2009.

The declaration is to be signed by the presidents of the Council, the Parliament and the Commission. However, some sources indicated that not all EU leaders were ready to put their signature to the text.

Moreover, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to communicate her personal aspirations for the German Presidency, which aims to bring the stalled Constitutional Treaty back on track.

The EU Civil Society Contact Group stated that "if European leaders are to regain the confidence of its citizens, they must close the gap between intention and action".

Friends of the Earth Europe demanded the abolition of the Euratom Treaty, which was also signed in 1957, saying that Euratom was an "outdated treaty" and that it was "outrageous to give preferential financial support to an expensive and dangerous energy source".

Ahead of the celebrations, BusinessEurope  President Ernest-Antoine Seillière stressed that EU institutional reform was "not that difficult a task" and underlined that it was the responsibility of governments to take care of it, as "without it, there will be no future".

EPP-ED President Joseph Daul said: "Standing up for our values, promoting liberties but also guaranteeing security are views that have always kept us united."

Martin Schulz, president of the European Socialists, said that the Berlin Declaration needs to contribute to translating Europe's success into concrete actions in the future.

The festivities will culminate in the signing of the Berlin Declaration, a celebratory text on the EU's historic achievements, common values, challenges and future outlook.

According to German officials, the text "will not be cast in Brussels jargon, but something that can be easily read by everyone".

The two-page declaration will outline the EU's historic achievements in terms of freedom, prosperity and solidarity. 

Further, it will draw attention to the fundamental principles of the "community method", such as equality of member states, transparency and subsidiarity. 

Another part of the text will refer to the fundamental values upon which the EU is based, especially the inviolability of human dignity. 

The final section of the Declaration will be devoted to the challenges of the future, such as fighting climate change, foreign and security policy, internal security, civil liberties and a socially responsible society.

  • The Berlin Declaration to mark the EU’s 50th anniversary will be signed on 25 March 2007.
  • The German Presidency intends to present a road map for a new Constitutional Treaty at the June Summit.

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