European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker signs the "Declaration of Rome" during a ceremony at Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy, on March 25, 2017. European Union (EU) leaders on Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome founding the integration process, with a major ceremony in the Italian capital. (Xinhua/Jin Yu)
by Eric J. Lyman
ROME, March 25 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) on Saturday celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome here amid concerns over challenges.
The Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, creating the European Economic Community, a predecessor to the modern EU.
Sixty years later, leaders from 27 nations met in the same room to sign the Rome Declaration, stressing their commitment to Europe's "common future."
The document called the bloc a "unique union with common institutions and strong values, a community of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law."
The Rome Declaration comes as the EU faces some of the most intense challenges in its history.
After the Brexit vote last year, Britain is set to be the first country to leave the bloc.
The wave of anti-establishment sentiment behind "Brexit" is also on the rise in some European countries, and in France which will hold elections next month, and Italy, which may hold a national vote later this year or early next year.
Additionally, slow economic growth has been seen in some member states, while Greece and Italy struggle to process hundreds of thousands of new migrants arriving from war-ravaged parts of the Middle East and Africa.
The threat of terror attacks is also a major worry. Just days before leaders gathered in Rome, London was shocked after a Britain-born assailant killed four people and injured 30 more in a car and knife attack near the British parliament.
Security concerns were evident in Rome, with much of the city's historical center behind barricades for the EU meeting, with hundreds of law enforcement officials deployed at key intersections and vantage points around the city, and a no-fly order was issued for the sky above Rome.
"It's significant that leaders renewed their pledge for unity, cooperation, and a common future at such a trying point in the European Union's history," Andrea Milanese, a political affairs analyst with ABS Securities in Milan, said in an interview.
Angela Rizzo, a 63-year-old school teacher told Xinhua, "It's not perfect, but the European Union is part of our lives and I am proud that it was born in Rome 60 years ago."
But restaurant owner Mario Amato, 49, said he was worried about the future of the European Union.
"I don't think anyone knows what will happen in the coming years," Amato said.