Rome Security Increased Ahead of EU Government Leaders Meeting After London Terror Attack

Italian officials heightened security around Rome on Friday afternoon in preparation for the European Union (EU) summit scheduled that evening. The summit commemorates the 60th anniversary of the coalition's foundation.

Police increased security arrangements around the Capitoline Hill — the location of the summit. Approximately 5,000 police were deployed. Concerns about the safety of the EU heads peaked after the deadly terrorist attack in London.

Officials reinforced the security arrangements in Rome in preparation for possible violence instigated by anarchists. Police dinghies periodically patrolled the Tiber river, checking the undersides of the bridges that the EU officials will cross. EU visitors began arriving in Rome on Thursday night, March 23.

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Presidents and prime ministers from the 27 EU member states converged in Italy to commemorate the 1957 founding treaty of Rome by receiving counsel from the pontiff on the night before their anniversary.

During the meeting, Pope Francis condemned anti-immigrant extremism and populism, telling the European heads that the continent is facing a "vacuum of values." The pontiff said that populism and extremism are serious threats to the EU.

The bloc experienced a series of crises before the celebrations which include Britain's decision to leave the EU, the migrant influx brought about by the terror developments in the Middle East and the continent's economic struggle.

Pope Francis cautioned the leaders of a developing split between EU institutions and their respective citizens. Greater solidarity, the pontiff stated, was the "most effective antidote to modern forms of populism."

The pontiff has criticized Europe on many occasions in the past. In 2014, he compared the continent to an elderly woman who was "no longer fertile and vibrant," a remark that received backlash from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In the council meeting, Pope Francis encouraged the EU leaders not to close their continent on itself. He also urged them not to erect walls — a remark that referenced America's similar migrant influx and President Donald Trump's similar move to build a wall to keep them out.

The pontiff stressed the disturbing "lapse of memory" present in today's views in which the public perceives the refugees and immigrants who fled war as a danger to their comfortable lifestyle. He recounted how modern Europe was founded from the massive migrations and the aftermath of World War II.

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