European Union leaders received the Nobel Peace Prize at an award ceremony in Oslo today for the Union's role in securing six decades of “peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.
The prize was accepted by Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, and Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament.
The three officials were joined by four young Europeans, aged 12 to 23, who had been selected in an online drawing and writing contest: Ana Vicente from Spain, Elena Garbujo from Italy, Ilona Zielkowska from Poland and Larkin Zahra from Malta.
Most leaders from the EU's 27 member states also attended today's ceremony in Oslo, Norway's capital. Among the absentees were David Cameron, Britain's prime minister; Václav Klaus and Petr Nečas, the Czech president and prime minister, respectively; Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg; and Demetris Christofias, the president of the Cyprus, the current holder of the rotating presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers. The leaders of Malta, Slovenia and Slovakia were also absent. Frederik Reinfeldt, Sweden's prime minister, was in Stockholm at the award ceremony for the other Nobel awards.
“The presence of so many European leaders here today underlines our common conviction: that we will come out of this together, and stronger,” Van Rompuy said in his speech. “Strong enough in the world to defend our interests and promote our values. We all work to leave a better Europe for the children of today and those of tomorrow. So that, later, others might turn and judge: that generation, ours, preserved the promise of Europe.”
Barroso, after invoking witnessing the end to dictatorship in his native Portugal in 1974, said: “From pooling coal and steel, to abolishing internal borders, from six countries to soon 28 with Croatia joining the family, this has been a remarkable European journey which is leading us to an ‘ever closer Union'.”
“And today, one of the most visible symbols of our unity is in everyone's hands,” Barroso said. “It is the euro, the currency of our European Union. We will stand by it.”
Barroso said: “Our quest for European unity is not a perfect work of art; it is work in progress that demands constant and diligent tending. It is not an end in itself, but a means to higher ends.”
Barroso also spoke about the violence in Syria, where an estimated 40,000 people have been killed in almost two years of fighting between rebels and the regime. “The current situation in Syria is a stain on the world's conscience and the international community has a moral duty to address it,” he said.
The decision by the Norwegian prize committee had been announced on 12 October. The committee cited the “stabilising part played by the EU” in the transformation of “most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace”.
The EU will match the prize money of around €1 million and donate the sum to support humanitarian projects for children.For more comment and analysis on this story, see this week's edition of European Voice, available from Thursday, 13 December.
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