“We will act together, at different paces and intensity where necessary, while moving in the same direction,” the declaration signed by EU leaders on the bloc’s 60th anniversary said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the softeners in the text when she told reporters that “we want to get in the same direction” but spoke of a multi-speed EU as a reality: “A Europe of different speeds doesn’t mean that it’s not a common Europe,” she said after the ceremony.
Luxemburgish Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told AP that he “preferred a two-speed Europe to a cul-de-sac and no speed at all.” The two-speed idea, he claimed, was originally one by the Benelux countries. “We in Benelux were alone at the beginning, but then one country after other joined because we saw that certain countries took us as hostages,” he said, referring to Poland’s unsuccessful fight against Council President Donald Tusk’s reappointment earlier this month.
Tusk called for those who are unhappy to work constructively together. “Today it is not enough to call for unity and to protest against multiple speeds,” he said in a speech in front of the 27 EU leaders (minus Britain’s Theresa May who is busy writing a letter to formally trigger Article 50 that will be delivered in Brussels on Wednesday).
“Europe as a political entity will either be united, or will not be at all,” Tusk said, adding that “the unity of Europe is not a bureaucratic model. It is a set of common values and democratic standards.”
The summit marked the signature of the Treaties of Rome in 1957, which Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker praised as having “sealed our Union forevermore.” He said the people in the room should be proud of having seen decades of peace on the EU’s territory.
“After so many wars, so many battles — why are we not proud of this? Because it wasn’t our generation but our predecessors?” Juncker said.
Tusk drew more concrete lessons from history. “Today in Rome we are renewing the unique alliance of free nations,” Tusk said. The “great predecessors” of today’s leaders “at that time did not discuss multiple speeds, they did not devise exits, but despite all the tragic circumstances of the recent history, they placed all their faith in the unity of Europe,” Tusk said.