EU rebuffs critics as it accepts Nobel peace prize

Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:25am EST
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By Luke Baker and Balazs Koranyi

OSLO (Reuters) - The European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday, an award which some past winners called unjustified but European leaders defended for recognizing the stability and democracy brought to the continent after two world wars.

Appropriately for a set of institutions with no single leader, the EU sent three of its presidents to collect the award at a ceremony in Oslo's City Hall attended by 20 EU heads of state and government.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the prize in 1984 for his campaign against South African apartheid, said it was wrong to recognize the EU as it was an organization based on "military force", and others have criticized the decision because the bloc is mired in economic and financial crisis.

But the Norwegian Nobel committee that bestows the award focused on what the EU had achieved over the past six decades to bring peace and security to once-warring nations, and to stitch back together the torn fabric of the "old continent".

Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council that represents EU leaders, invoked his own family history to highlight how raw the memories of World War Two remain.

"As a child born in Belgium just after the war, I heard the stories first hand," he said in his acceptance speech. "In 1940, my father, then 17, had to dig his own grave. He got away; otherwise I would not be here today.

"So what a bold bet it was for Europe's founders to say, yes, we can break this endless cycle of violence, we can stop the logic of vengeance, we can build a brighter future."

During the ceremony, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande sat next to each other in the front row, occasionally smiling and chatting, as if to underline how enmities of old can be transformed into alliances.   Continued...

European Union (EU) representatives President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz (L-R) hold the Nobel Peace Prize certificate and medal after they accepted it on behalf of the EU during a ceremony at City Hall in Oslo December 10, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett