THE European Union may be a Franco-German construction, but when the project needs a dose of grandiosity it invariably turns to Italy. This weekend the leaders of 27 EU countries (all bar Britain) will convene in Rome’s glorious Palazzo dei Conservatori, beneath 17th-century frescoes and flanked by sculptures of sundry popes, to proclaim their unity—60 years after their forefathers signed the Treaty of Rome, the EU’s founding document, in the same room. In today’s fractious union the symbolism counts for something, even if the declaration the leaders will issue is crushingly bland. Yet there will be a note of irony to the proceedings, for if you ask officials in Brussels or Berlin which country keeps them up at night, the answer is always the same: Italy.
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