EU awarded for creating 'continent of peace'

Tue, Dec 11, 2012, 00:00

The European Union was yesterday awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its role in transforming Europe from “a continent of war to a continent of peace” at a ceremony far removed from the union’s financial troubles.

The EU’s three presidents collected the prize in Oslo in recognition of six decades of work promoting “peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the ceremony along with government leaders from 21 of the EU’s 27 member states including German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande.

British PM absent

British prime minister David Cameron was one of six EU leaders who decided not to attend. But his deputy, Nick Clegg, was there to represent the UK at the Nobel Institute.

In his opening address, chairman of the Nobel committee Thorbjoern Jagland referred to the reconciliation between Germany and France as the “foundation for European integration”.

“ is probably the most dramatic example in history to show that war and conflict can be turned so rapidly into peace and co-operation,” he said.

He also praised the EU’s role in transforming a European “continent of war” into a “continent of peace”. “That should not be taken for granted – we have to struggle for it every day,” he said.

The speeches applauded the achievements of the union, while also acknowledging problems such as the current financial crisis.

‘Work in progress’

The idea of the union as a “work in progress” was a recurring theme. European commission president José Manuel Barroso acknowledged the situation showed the union was “not fully equipped to deal with a crisis of this magnitude”.

He added: “This is an award for the European project – for the people and the institution – that day after day, for the last 60 years, have built a new Europe”.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Kenny said he was struck by the Nobel committee’s recognition that greed had led to money being poured down a black hole

“I think that’s part of the reason why political leadership should be in a position to deal with our union effectively and put in place structures which can never allow that to happen again,” he told RTÉ.