European Union leaders disagree on idea of multi-speed Europe

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Without Theresa May, leaders from the other 27 EU members, were marking the union's 60th anniversary at an informal summit in Rome.

European Union leaders came to Rome to proclaim their unity at the place the European project began 60 years ago but a sharp disagreement about the union's future was clear from the start.

The declaration from the EU's 60th anniversary summit in Rome is meant to show the group's unity and strength just days before Britain triggers a procedure to leave the 28-nation bloc.

Luxemburger Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Union chief executive, recalled his father's forced service in the World War Two German army; Donald Tusk, the summit chairman, born in Gdansk a month after the Treaty was signed, remembered growing up in the ruins of war and yearning for freedom behind the Iron Curtain.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said that sustained unity for was the only way for the EU to survive.

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May declined to attend the European Union celebrations in Italy marking the signature by six founding states of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957.

"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 much more important that we all respect our common rules such as human rights and civil liberties, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, checks and balances, and the rule of law", Tusk said, referring to his home Poland and echoing repeated calls by the European commission for the Warsaw government to respect judicial independence.

"To agree on the declaration... we all had to give up something in the name of the common interest", Gentiloni said in address to the European Union leaders.

The EU has often done this in practice in the past, with only 19 nations in the eurozone and not all members participating in the Schengen zone of borderless travel.

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A government spokeswoman said: "This is speculation and we do not comment on leaks from Cabinet.

But we stand together and we move forward", Gentiloni said.

"We will be observing a minute of silence and remembrance at the start of the rally".

The Rome Declaration comes as the European Union faces some of the most intense challenges in its history. We have not forgotten the wars and extremism that ruined our continent before Europeans finally chose to unite their forces to create peace and prosperity instead.

"Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the "dangers" of our time: beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones," Francis said.

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