It’s important to remember where we came from. After the tragedies of the Second World War, the Treaty of Rome was a key agreement between six countries, which linked their fates through the European Economic Community. On the 60th anniversary of its signing, we look back on how the treaty laid the foundations for Europe and its achievement, which the European Parliament defends.
By the end of the Second World War, Europe was in ruins, the productive capacity of many of its countries destroyed. From these ruins emerged a new project of collaboration. Signed in 1957, the Treaty of Rome would become the basis for Europe's reconstruction. Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, highlights the Treaty's key role in shaping the Europe we know today. What we see today is the result of 60 years of peace... and freedom. The younger generation doesn't remember the extent to which European families suffered during the two world wars. It is an extraordinary achievement which we must defend. We have to move forward as freedom must be defended every day. Earlier, in 1951, six countries had created the European Coal and Steel Community to boost economic revival and help ensure lasting peace by creating a common market for these essential wartime commodities. Vigorously promoted by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, the ECSC Treaty was signed in Paris by France, West Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. A wind of change swept over Europe. European integration will not happen overnight, nor in a single guise. It will be built through concrete achievements, that first create solidarity on the ground. The decisive step towards European integration was taken 12 years after the end of the Second World War. On the 25th of March 1957, representatives of the same six countries met in Rome to sign the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, the legal cornerstone of the future European Union. The Treaty of Rome committed its signatories to the progressive abolishment of customs duties within this common market, in order to stimulate free trade between them. It also established a single set of import duties for goods entering the common market from outside. Based on the free movement of goods, people, capital and services, the common market led to a sharp increase in commercial interactions, generating at least 2.75 million new jobs between 1992 and 2006. At the heart of Europe's economic revival in the 1960s and 70s was the Common Agricultural Policy, which devoted a large part of the EEC budget to putting an end to famine and stimulating economic growth. The Treaty of Rome also introduced specific programmes of support for the poorest regions, designed to shield them from the adverse impacts of new competition and laid the foundations for a social Europe, for instance in the area of equal pay for women and men. The remarkable success of the common market saw other European countries queuing up to join. In the 60 years since the Treaty of Rome was signed, we have grown from 6 to 28 countries, and from 180 million to over 500 million citizens. In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty replaced the European Economic Community by the European Union and further defined the scope of the four freedoms. The Schengen Area removed internal borders, putting the finishing touches to the free movement of people and goods. In 2002, after a long economic integration process, the euro was introduced as a common currency. More recently, the Union has taken on new responsibilities in the areas of foreign policy and security. Now, after 60 years of peace, Europe faces new challenges in the form of globalisation and financial turmoil. Europe does not yet have all the answers, but many hope that this anniversary will provide an opportunity to rekindle the optimism of modern Europe's founding fathers. We are much more than a market and a currency. That is the point from which we should restart. The anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Rome is an opportunity to bring Europe closer to its citizens. We must offer them solid plans for unemployment, especially for the youth, for terrorism and immigration. Today more than ever, European unity is crucial. The EU must change for the better, but without making it weaker.