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Celebrating Europe! - 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of RomeSkip language selection bar (shortcut key=2) 01/02/2008
EUROPA > 50th Anniversary > News and media > Interview

Unseen birth pains of the EU

Unseen birth pains of the EU
Albert Breuer (left), with the first executive secretary of Euratom, Mr Guazzugli Marini.


Offstage too, the signing of the EU's founding treaty on 25 March 1957 was dogged by a series of mishaps. Diverted trains, overzealous cleaners and student strikes were just some of the things that could have derailed history. Albert Breuer, one of the staff responsible for organising the ceremony in Rome, shares his memories of those historic days

"We had just a few days to organise everything – getting the texts to Rome, typing out the final treaty, fine tuning the logistics down to the last detail...

A few days before 25 March, a train had left Brussels, passing through Luxembourg on its way to Rome. Onboard, all the translations and printed documents needed for the ceremony. I was travelling on the same train, to make sure it all arrived. When we arrived in Basle, however, the Swiss decided to block the train. Neither phone calls from our superiors nor any of our remonstrations would budge them, and so I had to continue on alone to Milan, where I was told I would find the texts. When I got there, I went in search of "my" train – but it had disappeared, along with all the texts! After looking for a while - and breaking into a cold sweat more than once - we eventually found the train, in a siding a few kilometres away, and it was able to continue on to Rome.

Once there, we continued work typing out the treaty, as it was still not finished. What we had brought to Rome was in fact a rough copy, covered in handwritten corrections, which still had to be properly formatted by a printer in Rome.

In Val-Duchesse, the experts were working around the clock, bickering over every word and phrase – as you can see, nothing has changed! Every time they agreed on exactly how to phrase something, they called us in Rome and asked us to change the documents accordingly.

The floor was strewn with paper and dirty, reworked stencils. One evening, finding all this "mess" on the floor, the cleaners threw it all out - we were unable to recover any of it, everything went to the dump! In despair, we called Val-Duchesse to get us an extra team of typists. Thanks to them we were able us to make new stencils.

But then we had to assemble the final documents themselves. The university of Rome sent us some students to do this, in return for a few lira, but their help didn't last long – the next day, they went on strike, asking for 200 lira an hour more!

And the result of all these mishaps? On the day of the signing, the final page layouts of the text were not ready, so what the ministers and heads of delegation actually signed was a stack of blank sheets! To be more precise: all we could print in time were the first and last pages of the two thick volumes. Between them, there was nothing but empty pages. However, apart from a very small circle of people, nobody was any the wiser. The main problem was stopping journalists getting too close. But in the end we managed to carry it off. Luckily, when the time came to seal the treaty - the point that marked the official adoption of the treaties - everything was in order.

As for me, my career with the EU continued, organising over twenty meetings for Euratom in Brussels and abroad as well as ten or so EU summits.

After all these years, my memories are still vivid and my faith in the European project is as strong as it was the day I saw it being born."

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