European Union leaders signed the bloc's first constitution today (Friday) in Rome.

The ceremony, in the same Renaissance hall where the union's founding document was signed in 1957, was overshadowed by controversy over the incoming European Commission, the top EU executive body. The new commission President Jose Manuel Barroso withdrew his list Wednesday after European lawmakers objected to Italy's Justice Commissioner candidate (Rocco Buttiglione) because of his remarks about homosexuals and about women. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the 25 leaders later expressed full support for Mr. Barroso.

The new European Charter calls for a long-term president to replace the rotating presidency, which changes every six months, and a stronger European parliament to tackle such issues as immigration.

The constitution must be ratified within three years by all EU member countries.