Taoiseach Enda Kenny meets with Pope Francis in the Vatican
The Taoiseach travels to Italy today to attend events marking the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome with his fellow leaders of European Member States.
The Treaty of Rome, signed on 25 March 1957 by six countries (Italy, France, West Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) is the founding European Treaty of what has now become the European Union.
Heads of State and Government of the EU Member States are to have an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican on the evening of Friday 24 March.
On Saturday morning, the Taoiseach will join the other EU Leaders in the offices of the Mayor of Rome, where the Treaty of Rome was signed 60 years ago. It is expected that the 27 leaders along with the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament will agree and sign the Rome Declaration. This Declaration has been negotiated by the Member States and acknowledges the many achievements of the EU, as well as setting out the challenges it faces and the steps that must be taken to confront them.
The 27 leaders will then attend a lunch event hosted by the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella.
Speaking in advance of the events the Taoiseach said:
It is an honour to travel to Italy and be received by the Pope and I am very much looking forward to hearing what he has to say to European Leaders. I am also very pleased to have the chance to see my colleagues and mark the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. It is a testament to achievements of the EU that, whereas just six countries were present in 1957, there will now be 27 Member States coming together. The EU has delivered peace and prosperity across our continent and stands as a major achievement of all our peoples.
There are of course very serious challenges facing people today; from the migration crisis, to security threats to the uneven economic recovery. However, the EU remains our best chance of confronting all these problems. We are stronger when we stand together. I am pleased to say that, despite our differences, there is a good sense of unity amongst European Leaders.
In my discussions in Rome I will emphasise the need for us to remain united, focus on our core values that remain central to our peace and prosperity, and cooperate in areas where we agree and where Europe can add value. Completing the Single Market and supporting jobs through trade are good examples of where Europe really works for citizens.
Brexit is not on the agenda of the events but I will of course use the opportunity of engaging with my counterparts to reiterate Ireland's concerns, specifically around Northern Ireland and the Peace Process, the Common Travel Area, and our interwoven economies.