The Brief – A Roman comedy of errors

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

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.

Five years ago, EURACTIV disclosed a comedy of errors related to the signing of the foundational Treaty.

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?

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Around 1,000 people marched in Brussels urging pro-EU forces to remain united in order to tackle the rising extreme-right and halt the “Orbanisation” of European societies ahead of the May EU elections.

Hungary’s PM meanwhile again lashed out at “Brussels bureaucrats”, only days after reaching a compromise with conservative allies over his anti-EU billboard campaign.

Carlo Calenda, a prominent Italian liberal democrat, wants his new platform ‘Siamo Europei’ to help create a single pro-EU list for the upcoming elections.

Nokia “mistakenly” sent customer data to China, the European telecoms giant has admitted, following the announcement of an investigation by a Finnish data protection watchdog. The EU is about to drop the threat of a potential Huawei ban but wants 5G risks monitored.

Italy’s participation in China’s giant “Silk Road” infrastructure project sparked an outcry in Germany, including a call for the European Union to block such deals with a veto.

Germany’s Commerzbank has a clear strategy about the planned merger with Deutsche Bank and is “working hard” in order to reach a decision as quickly as possible, according to internal communication.

Serbia marked 20 years since the NATO airstrikes that forced Belgrade to withdraw its troops from Kosovo, ending a conflict that claimed more than 13,000 lives.

The annulment of the Posting of Workers Directive is a key proposal of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, candidate for the European elections. But such a proposal is impossible without a withdrawal from the EU.

Missed the latest news from around Europe this morning? The Capitals featured a new Eurosceptic front on the horizon in Warsaw, Conte’s efforts to de-escalate and an embassy scandal in Bucharest.

Look out for…

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, dubbed ‘bad boy of European politics’, kicks off his European election campaign in Brussels tonight. 

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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