The leaders of 27 European Union member states on Saturday gathered in the Italian capital to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the bloc’s foundational Treaty of Rome.
With no representative from the United Kingdom, which is set to leave the EU following a referendum, the dignitaries were received at the Campidoglio, site of Rome’s city hall, by host Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s prime minister.
Ceremonies were also presided by the Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
The opening speech was delivered by Gentiloni, who said that on Mar. 25, 1957, the six founding countries “started to build a union of peace” upon a “divided” Europe.
Gentiloni added that, despite speaking diverse languages and having different opinions, the founders were united by a shared ideal: to not be divided, but rather cooperate with one another for the common good.
“We were six, now we are 27,” stressed the Italian prime minister.
“We have to remain united,” the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, told the press upon arriving at the meeting.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Dalia Grybauskaite said in reference to the UK’s exit from the EU that countries had the “freedom to join or leave” the organization, but that they were “better off together.”
Meanwhile, the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, posted on his official Twitter account: “I am very proud to be a European today!”
The ceremony, which is set to last almost two hours, will come to an end with the signing of a declaration that, according to EU sources, includes a few last-minute “cosmetic” changes to address some of the objections raised by Poland and Greece.