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Leaders of the European Union met in Berlin, Germany, on Sunday, March 25, 2007, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, seen as the birth of the EU.
Representing nearly 500 million people, the bloc’s leaders had much to celebrate: the expansion from the original six member states to 27; much easier travel and trade between countries; a shared currency; and decades of relative peace.
What the EU has accomplished so far is unprecedented, and many look to the next 50 years with hope. Yet others see a directionless Europe struggling to find its identity. Regardless of the lens through which the 27-nation bloc is viewed, most agree that the European Union is at a crossroads.
One of the major issues preventing a unified and empowered European Union from moving forward is the stalled constitution, which has been on hold since its rejection by France and the Netherlands in 2005. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has used her nation’s six-month EU presidency, which ends in June, to take steps to renew treaty negotiations.
One of these steps was the “Berlin Declaration,” signed last Sunday by the presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. The declaration’s goal is to have a “renewed common basis” before European Parliament elections take place in 2009 (Deutsche Welle).
Ms. Merkel suggested that Portugal use its upcoming EU presidency to organize an intergovernmental conference to resolve the current treaty crisis. The German Chancellor declared that it would be a “historic failure” if a new treaty was not agreed upon by 2009 (BBC).
Ms. Merkel also suggested that the European Union needs its own military, telling the German newspaper Bild Zeitung, “In the European Union we have to come closer to the creation of a European army.”
However, some EU leaders are claiming Ms. Merkel’s lofty ambitions are unrealistic. The president of Poland said the 2009 goal was “unachievable,” and the Czech Republic’s president stated the “Berlin Declaration” was “just a dream” (BBC).
In light of the 50-year anniversary, many are wondering what Europe’s future holds, and whether it will meet the challenges ahead of it. To learn where events in Europe are leading, read our in-depth analysis “The European Counterweight – Part 1: A Leaderless Superpower” and “The European Counterweight – Part 2: Will a Strongman Fill the Void?”