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Italian Ceremony Marks Treaty of Rome Anniversary

EU chief Jose Manuel Barroso said Friday Europe needs a vision to inspire its citizens for the next 50 years. He was taking part in a ceremony at the Italian Senate, to mark the European Union's 50th birthday in Rome, where its founding treaty was signed. Sabina Castelfranco has this VOA report from Rome.

European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso and other dignitaries and representatives of the 27 EU member states took part in Friday's celebrations at the Italian Senate to mark the Treaty of Rome, which initially established the European Community in 1957.

Six nations: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg - launched Europe's common market.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi explained the intentions of the EU's founding fathers and what still needs to be done.

"We wanted an enlarged Europe, able to reunify the continent, an aggregate, which, today, is the largest area of peace, democracy and well-being in the world," said Prodi.

"Now," the prime minister added, "we have to make it work properly. Therefore, in celebrating its first 50 years of life, we must commit solemnly to making it happen in the future."

EU President Barroso also spoke of the challenges member states face in the future.

"We need to inspire European citizens with a vision for the next 50 years. We need to show that the European Union is the best response to the challenges of the 21st century," he said.

Mr. Barroso said the challenges include globalization, sustainable growth, competitiveness, energy sources, climate change and security.

In Berlin this weekend, a summit of heads of state and government will be held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Germany presently holds the six-months rotating presidency of the EU.

In an interview published Friday in the German newspaper, Bild, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of some of the EU's achievements. She said Europe should be proud of its freedom, rule of law and safety for its combined population of nearly 500 million.

Over the last 50 years, Merkel added, Europeans have learned to live in peace, without giving up their diversity.

At the weekend summit, EU leaders will issue a declaration they hope will infuse new life into the European project. The declaration is expected to set a date of 2009 for the bloc to overhaul its institutional structures.

Chancellor Merkel hopes the summit can be a springboard to revive stalled efforts to ratify the EU constitution. The proposed charter, aimed at streamlining the bloc's decision-making process, has been in limbo since it was rejected by France and the Netherlands in 2005.