EU leaders sign new constitution
European Union leaders have signed the new EU constitution in a lavish ceremony held in Rome.
Heads of state and government took it in turn to sign the text in the same room where the Treaty of Rome was signed to establish the EU in 1957.
The ceremony comes amid a row about the views of prospective Italian EU commissioner Rocco Buttiglione.
Incoming President Jose Manuel Barroso has withdrawn his entire proposed team and has hinted he may make changes.
A devout Catholic, Mr Buttiglione has been scorned by MEPs unhappy at his views on homosexuality and the role of women in society.
Also present at the ceremony were the leaders of Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia - the four countries candidates to joining the EU.
The signing ceremony was held in the Renaissance splendour of the Campidoglio, the city hall inspired by Michelangelo in the centre of the capital's historic district.
Up to 7,000 police and security forces are on Rome's streets to protect EU leaders, while a squadron of F-16 fighters were enforcing a no-fly zone over the city centre.
Mr Barroso said in a speech before the signing that the EU constitution would give birth to a "more democratic union", and urged the 25 member-states to ratify it without delay.
"I hope that tomorrow the national parliaments and European citizens will take responsibilities and approve this constitution, opening the way to a new union."
"More than ever, we now need perseverance, an unfailing will and total confidence in the future in order to overcome the challenges faced by the European Union."
Mr Barroso is expected to hold informal talks with EU leaders during the ceremonies to seek support for his planned changes to the commission, correspondents say.
Despite the signing of the constitution, member nations still have to ratify the document individually before it comes into effect - either by referendum or parliamentary vote.
A number of countries, including France and the UK, will hold public votes, with the first vote expected to take place in Spain in February.
On Friday, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said a referendum on the EU constitution in the UK would take place "early in 2006" if the ruling Labour Party won a third term in office.
There is intense scepticism in the UK, while the outcome of the French vote is by no means certain, says the BBC's Tim Franks in Rome.
The constitution intends to make the union function more smoothly.
But plans for an EU president overseeing the co-operation between member states, and a change in the voting system, have caused divisions in EU states.
The new treaty also sees a big expansion in the number of policy areas where countries will lose their national veto, and includes the creation of a foreign minister's post.
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