European Union seeks unity amid crises

The marches coincided with the Rome Summit, where the heads of state and government of 27 European Union member countries - excluding the United Kingdom -gathered to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which led to the foundation of the EU.

The informal summit in Rome sees leaders from across Europe renew their commitment to the European Union in light of Britain's impending exit.

With the EU facing a string of crises on top of Brexit including migration, a moribund economy, terrorism and populism, EU President Donald Tusk called for stronger leadership. Then Europe became one again.

Eventually they joined their fellow members in signing the Rome declaration, a success for a bloc that in recent years has appeared divided in the face of an influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in London to protest Britain's departure from the European Union as Europe's Treaty of Rome statute celebrates its 60th anniversary. UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger the Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty to start the Brexit talks on March 29.

At the Colosseum, in central Rome, two different pro-Europe rallies came together.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke with optimism, urging member states not to be sidetracked by disgruntled voters and offering to listen to concerns while maintaining solidarity.

"Fundamentally, we never wanted Brexit and this march is about making our voices heard", a spokesman for the Unite for Europe march said in a statement.

The leaders had the words of Pope Francis ringing in their ears, after the pontiff warned on the eve of the summit that the crisis-ridden bloc "risks dying" without a new vision.

But he believed the European Union was strong enough to see through the challenges it faced from economic problems and the migration crisis to the terrorist threat and rise of populist anti-Europe movements.

Greece, the loudest voice against the austerity policies wrought by its three Eurozone bailouts, meanwhile insisted that the document should mention social policies.

The process that will begin Britain's exit from the European Union is expected to start on Wednesday.

At the end of the summit, all 27 leaders signed the Rome Declaration saying that "European unity is a bold, farsighted endeavor".

The treaty was signed in the Horatii and Curiatii hall of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, one of the Renaissance palaces that line the Michelangelo-designed Capitoline Square.

Protesters included Alistair Campbell, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's press secretary, who believes Brexit could severely weaken the United Kingdom economy.

  • Leroy Wright