SIXTY years ago in Rome, on the 25th of March, were laid the foundations of Europe as we know it today, marking the beginning of the longest period of peace our continent has ever known. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome initiated an unprecedented process of regional integration by establishing a common market in which people, goods, services and capital can move freely and created conditions conducive to the stability and prosperity of the European citizens. This Anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the future of the European Union, mostly by looking forward, but also by assessing its achievements over the past decades. The European story is one of peace, democracy, solidarity and freedom, but also of prosperity, equality and well-being. Certainly, there have been setbacks, and future challenges can sometimes appear overwhelming. This is why a period of dialogue and reflection is needed: taking stock of our achievements over time can become a useful start. At this particular juncture in history, it is worthwhile remembering our shared successes and the principles that unite us as Europeans. We are Europeans because we believe that Europe is our destiny, our project and our hope. We know that our respective countries will be stronger together to face the always more complex challenges of climate change, migrations, unemployment, instability at our borders or terrorism. We believe that it is by sharing our national sovereignties that we can better defend our common interests, favouring cooperation and solidarity instead of dispersing our forces in a highly competitive world. We are Europeans because we share to same ambition to promote and sustain democracy, the rule of law, gender equality, freedom of religion and belief, and the protection of minorities or the abolition of death penalty: we must be proud of these principles. It is rare to see them applied with as much intensity as on our continent. Our Union reflects a community of values whose respect is not negotiable.
We are bound by a development model capable of producing about a quarter of the world’s wealth, while striving to limit its CO2 emissions. The European Union has been able to draw the world against global warming during the COP21 and represents a “green flag” for many citizens worldwide. We are also committed to sustain our social market economy which strives to reconcile economic efficiency and social cohesion as no other region of the world. We know that the world is not pacified and how unstable our neighbourhood is in Ukraine and Russia, Syria and Iraq, Libya and the Sahel. Confronted with these threats, our goal is to unite and develop our capacity to cooperate in response to external challenges. In the context of the crisis of migrants, the European Union consider asylum-seekers as victims, not as threats, and we welcome the efforts made to ensure that our external borders can be effectively monitored in an orderly manner while enhancing our security. Our objective remains to continue deepening our partnerships worldwide by strengthening the capacity of our partners to respond to the challenges they are facing and by creating the conditions for sustained peace and stability. This is why, in spite of economic and budgetary constraints, the European Union remains today the world’s biggest donor of humanitarian and development aid. Solidarity is part of our DNA. We are European even when we deplore the fact that our internal difficulties absorb too much of our energy. Of course we deeply regret the decision of the British people to leave us. These difficulties have nevertheless sparked new positive developments, such as the Banking Union, the European Border Guard Corps or the European Solidarity Corps, confirming our permanent ability to deepen our Union, even in challenging times. The desire to support a unity in diversity was once again affirmed by our Heads of State and Government at the recent summit in Bratislava. At this occasion, new prospects were set out for common action, particularly in the field of police and judicial cooperation, defense and investment. On this anniversary, Europe remembers its past with pride and looks to the future with hope. For 60 years we have forged a union that promotes peaceful cooperation, respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and solidarity between the European states and peoples. Today it is up to us to devise a common and better future for Europe. Our regional integration process represents a fabulous journey which, we believe, can serve as a source of inspiration worldwide. Peace has prevailed in Europe for the longest time in its history between states whose reconciliation looked like an impossible dream few decades ago. For that sole purpose, the EU has achieved its goal. It is now our responsibility to make sure that this considerable achievement is sustained.