Pro- and anti-EU protests sweep through Rome as Brexit overshadows bloc’s 60th anniversary (VIDEOS)

Thousands of people took to streets of the Italian capital, Rome, to either support the European Union or to protest against it, as the EU is celebrating its 60th anniversary. RT asked anti-EU demonstrators why many were unhappy with the union.

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Police have stepped up security for four marches and two sit-ins that had been expected in Rome, with estimated 25,000 people attending.

Demonstrators marched through the streets with banners saying, “Our Europe,” and “Europe For All.”

While the demonstrations were mostly peaceful, in some areas it came to confrontation with security forces, RT’s Peter Oliver reported from the ground. Oliver asked the people why they came out into the streets of Rome to protest.

“We are here because there is this march against the European Union and especially, the euro currency,” one of the protesters said.

“We are here today because we think that the European Union is against the workers, against the people of Europe, so we are here to say ‘No’ to the European Union and the eurozone,” another said.

“They have no democracy, they can decide everything without any contact with people,” a third protester said.

RT’s video agency Ruptly filmed the 8,000-strong march, dubbed “Another Europe.” Participants at the march spoke out against far-right tendencies and divisions in the EU, but also criticized the direction its policies have taken.

“We must be united against the danger of an increasing nationalism which could divide Europe once more,” warned Haris Golemis, of the Central Committee of Greece’s Syriza party, who was attending the march. He blamed the EU establishment for what he sees as the rise of the “extreme right.”

“We want to fight racism and xenophobia, and as well as we want to fight austerity,” explained Roberto Morea, a senior member of the transform!italia and transform!europe groups.

Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament’s president, admitted that the EU has a number of internal problems, describing the bloc as inefficient and overly bureaucratized.

“There have been too many mistakes, it is not complete, it is often removed from real issues, divided, powerless, too bureaucratic,” Tajani said on Saturday, according to Euronews.

“As European Parliament president, the growing disenchantment among citizens worries me. We cannot progress without bringing Europe closer to the people.”

The single currency and freedom of movement, the cornerstones of the EU, have recently been increasingly challenged by the economic and migrant crises. Nationalist right-wing parties and movements, which advocate for reinstatement of national currencies, the closing of borders to the flow of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East, as well as for the secession from the EU, have been on the rise in Europe.

Representatives of 27 EU countries, without the UK, which is not attending, are in Rome to mark 60 years since the creation of the European Economic Community, which later became the EU, by signing a new declaration on Capitoline Hill. It is the same site the founding six nations signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

The celebrations come just four days ahead of the UK’s formal exit from the EU.