EU to celebrate 50th birthday in Berlin
23 March 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Leaders of the European Union's 27 member states gather in Berlin at the weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the bloc's founding treaty and outline EU goals for the future. The highlight of the gathering will be the signing of a Berlin Declaration, a statement of EU values that looks back on past achievements and lists the challenges in the years to come. Drafted by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, the document is expected to refer to climate protection, securit
23 March 2007
Berlin (dpa) - Leaders of the European Union's 27 member states gather in Berlin at the weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the bloc's founding treaty and outline EU goals for the future.
The highlight of the gathering will be the signing of a Berlin Declaration, a statement of EU values that looks back on past achievements and lists the challenges in the years to come.
Drafted by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, the document is expected to refer to climate protection, security matters and managing the flow of migration as key issues facing the EU.
It will also mention the success of the euro, the common currency used by 13 of the union's members, but will not refer to Europe's Christian roots as Merkel and Poland had originally wanted.
Sources familiar with the document say there will be no specific reference to the EU Constitution, which was rejected two years ago in referendums in France and the Netherlands.
Germany has made reviving the treaty one of the main goals of its EU presidency, but the plan has met with lukewarm support in some of the other members, particularly Britain.
Merkel is expected to outline her personal aims for the remainder of the six-month presidency in a speech at the signing of the declaration in Berlin's Historical Museum on Sunday morning.
Not all 27 leaders will put their signatures to the document, which the chancellor hopes will revive public interest in the union ahead of elections to the European Parliament in 2009.
Media advisors had persuaded her to keep the ceremony as compact as possible, warning that television viewers would be put off by a long procession of people waiting in line to sign.
The chancellor, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the president of the EU parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, will perform that task on behalf of all the EU institutions.
The Treaty of Rome, which paved the way for the EU, was signed in March 1957 by the six original members of the European Economic Community - Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
German officials have promised that the Berlin Declaration will be concise and easy to read, unlike many of the official papers issued by bureaucrats at EU headquarters in Brussels.
Some sources say that an external author has been called in to polish the wording, which the chancellor and her staff were still working on at the beginning of the week.
No details of the document have been disclosed, prompting members of the EU parliament to complain of Berlin government "secrecy" and its failure to consult EU citizens on matters that affect them.
The birthday celebrations begin on Saturday evening when the leaders join Merkel for a concert given by one of the world's greatest orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic.
Following the a performance of Beethoven's 5th symphony conducted by Britain's Sir Simon Rattle, the guests will attend a gala dinner hosted by German President Horst Koehler.
After Sunday's signing ceremony, the leaders will join Merkel in a luncheon held at the newly refurbished Hotel de Rome near the landmark Brandenburg Gate.
Police have tightened security for the weekend gathering, which will also see a major demonstration by anti-globalization groups, trade unions and peace activists. Some 10,000 protesters are expected to turn up for the rally.
Coinciding with the political celebrations, the German government has put on a wide-ranging cultural programme featuring an open air pop concert, a club night and "A Night of Beauty" at the capital's famous museums.
Some 14 museums and galleries will open their doors to public from 6 pm to 2 am on Sunday morning, offering displays of traditional and modern dances as well as music performances and literary recitals.
Around the same time, ravers will have a chance to sample the latest music in more than 30 of Berlin's hottest nightspots during a European club night.
On Sunday afternoon an open-air concert near the Brandenburg Gate will feature Italian rocker Gianna Nannini, veteran British singer Joe Cocker, Berlin girl group Montrose and Outlandish from Denmark.
A host of street artists and theatre groups from across Europe will be mingling with the crowds. There will also be 75 information tents showcasing Germany and fellow EU members.
The party ends on Sunday evening with a gigantic fireworks display.
Subject: German news