Today marks the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957 by the six founding member countries, which laid the groundwork for what was to become the EU.
The quirky sequence of events leading to the signing ceremony in Rome on 25 March 1957 is almost too funny for words and one day a film director may be inspired to turn it into a movie.
The main protagonist is a Belgian official in charge of organising the signature in Rome. The treaty had just been negotiated in Val Duchesse.
So, the official places the material on a train: typewriters, paper, mimeograph machines. The cargo is sealed, and the official gets on board the same train.
But when the train reaches the Swiss border, the official hears the characteristic sound of a wagon being detached. He jumps on the station platform only to realise that it’s “his” wagon that has been detached.
Swiss authorities explain that a train which transports goods and passengers at the same time is not allowed to cross into Swiss territory. The official has no choice, and the journey continues, just on two separate trains.
But at the Italian border, the authorities ask him to provide import certificates with all the necessary stamps. While he tries to explain the importance of his mission and the Italian authorities finally agree to make an exception, the wagon is lost.
After a long search, the wagon is finally located and the journey continues. But in Milan, the wagon is lost again. By the time the Belgian official – and the wagon – arrive in Rome, a lot of time has been wasted.
As the official arrives in the room where the ceremony is held, another problem comes up, this time with the mimeograph machines (the copiers of that time). Plans to install the machines inside the room need to be changed because it is decorated with Rubens paintings.
Mimeographs project ink in all directions and he is told that it is out of the question to repaint the Rubens frescoes afterwards.
So the work of putting on paper the Rome treaty begins in the basement. To catch up, Italian students were hired, but two days later, they went on strike (how typical). They then had to bring in secretaries from Luxembourg, which further delayed work.
In the end, when everything was finally ready, because of humidity, the paper was wet and had to be put on the floor for one night, in order to properly dry.
The official went to sleep and came back the next morning. But in the meantime, the cleaning maids had passed, finding a basement full of what they see as waste paper. So they removed and disposed of all this “dirt”, including the stencils (which represent the original), so new copies could not be made.
The panicked official and his team looked all over Rome landfills, trying to find the treaty bearing the name of the Italian capital, but to no avail. The only solution was to sign the treaty on a blank sheet, with only one page where the names of the heads of state and government appear on top.
The scam remained undiscovered. But who reads treaties anyway?
By Alexandra Brzozowski
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Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]