Palazzo del Quirinale 23/03/2007

Toast by the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties establishing the European Communities


(Quirinale Palace, 23 March 2007)

Distinguished Presidents of the European Institutions and of National Parliaments,
Mr Prime Minister,
Commissioners and Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

For many years in the past - working within the Italian and European Parliaments - I shared with you our commitment to create a more united and stronger continent; more recently I worked for the establishment of an enlarged Europe, solemnly re-founded on an ambitious constitutional text capable of meeting the expectations of about 490 million citizens.

I am therefore greatly satisfied to see you all gathered here again, in Rome, only a short way from the Horatii and the Curiatii Hall where, 50 years ago, the six founding countries signed the Treaties Establishing the European Communities.

The culminating moment in the celebration of the anniversary of that historic event will be the Berlin special session of the European Council in a few days. And it is right that it should be so: because at this moment, the Presidency of the Council is in the hands of another great friend and founding country, Germany; and it is Germany that not only has the task of proudly proclaiming the achievements and the progress made since then according to the inspiration of the fathers of the integration project, but also of pointing to the new, necessary and urgent developments to be pursued in our common endeavour. We have total confidence that the German Presidency will work successfully towards this end.

At the same time I should like to thank you most sincerely for the tribute you have paid to Italy by being present in Rome, in view of the part she played in designing and developing the 1957 Treaties, and even earlier, in bringing the European Community into being. Italy hosted the Messina Conference, and made a major contribution to its purposeful approach and success.

It is worthwhile recalling that event, for it was a response to the crisis that had opened up following the rejection by France of the Treaty instituting a European Defence Community. But the collapse of that project demonstrated that the conditions were not yet in place, not only for a common acceptance of responsibility in that crucial sector, but also for decisive progress to be made towards the establishment of a political Europe. Let us not forget that it was precisely as a result of an Italian initiative - the idea was first broached by Alcide De Gasperi and Altiero Spinelli - that article 38 was introduced into the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community. That article provided for a specific remit to draft a Statute for a European political Community. And it was precisely that Statute which was approved by the ad hoc Assembly chaired by Paul-Henri Spaak on 10 March 1953. It was the first attempt to introduce a European Constitution as the basis - as the text itself stated - of a supranational community: an authentic Political Union.

That project collapsed, together with the European Defence Community Treaty. The time was not yet ripe to take that great step forward. The crisis was overcome by choosing the path of economic integration, of the European Common Market.

But now that this path has been fully pursued, and with extraordinary success, we can certainly say that, 50 years later, Europe - no longer with 6 but with 27 members - is in dire need of a strong political Union. The time is ripe, and it has become urgent, to adopt the common defence - or foreign and defence - policy which was not possible in the early 1950s; it is also timely and urgent to have a more robust political and institutional construction, based on an ancient and new framework of common values and objectives.

But this is precisely the effort that was made between 2001 and 2004 with the framing of the Treaty, signed here in Rome two-and-a-half years ago, and promptly ratified by Italy with a vast consensus in Parliament. The innovations enshrined in that Treaty were necessary due to the enlargement of the Union, and to the historic process of unification in peace and democracy that Europe had finally achieved, after a century of warfare and division.

Those innovations are objectively required as a result of the radical changes that have occurred in our societies and in the world scene, and by the challenges and threats they have triggered. Whether they are challenges posed by scientific and technological progress and of global competition against the background of new powerful emerging powers, climate change and energy crises, demographic imbalances and migration flows, or the other challenges of which we all are aware, and to which no individual country can effectively respond alone. Equally the threats to peace and international security, to civil co-existence and the rule of law which stands as its protector and guarantor, are of such a nature and magnitude today that they require the type of vision and action which can only be envisaged or effectively addressed on a European scale.

In more general terms, none of our States, taken individually, can make their influence felt in the world of today and tomorrow: only a united Europe, a Europe speaking with a single voice, can have an acknowledged role to play.

This is the reason for my earnest appeal to work for the full success of the June European Council, to enable the Union to emerge from the institutional deadlock, to avoid challenging the balance that was so painstakingly achieved with the 2004 text, and pave the way for bringing the Treaty into effect, in the form that may emerge after a rapid simplification of its third part.

We must feel more united than ever around the most noble values that stem from our long and troubled history. The Exhibition you have just visited shows how deep are the roots, and how significant has been the growth of our common European civilisation and culture. It is up to us, as representatives of the States and peoples of the European Union, to demonstrate that we are worthy of that extraordinary legacy, and are capable of handing on to the younger generations the sense of commitment we have pursued for the past 50 years and our solemn mandate to renew and push forward that same commitment.

With these sentiments in mind, I raise my glass, wishing for all our peoples and for future generations a solidarity-based, peaceful, strong and united Europe!