The Treaty of Rome, the cornerstone of what is now the European Union, declares, from the start, its determination “to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe.” The leaders of the first six signatories affirmed “as the essential objective of their efforts the constant improvement of the living and working conditions of their peoples.”
They declared their resolve to pool their resources “to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty” and called on “the other people of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts.”
Today, 56 years later (the Treaty was signed on March 25, 1957), the six countries have become 27 and their 500 million citizens enjoy the highest standard of living any continent has known. But even now, as the 27 countries’ leaders meet in Brussels, the dream of a united Europe is in greater danger than ever, not only because the debt crisis in many member states shows the persistent inequality between peoples, but also because this has revived the nationalism and arrogance that continually divided Europe’s nations.
In the midst of crisis, with each country struggling with its problems and the Brussels leadership always seeming to be several steps behind developments, it is natural that the more powerful forces in the Union will shape policy and the EU’s course. But when some decide that the dogmatic adherence to treaties that followed the founding one are more important than fundamental principles, it would be useful for them to remember that Europe’s many decades of success depend on the Treaty of Rome and the objectives that it set out. It is natural that Europe’s journey will encounter problems. Their solution lies not in improvisation nor dogmatism, but in maintaining the principles that proved their value over nearly 60 years of peace, liberty and prosperity.