OSLO (EJP)---European Council President Herman Van Rompuy heralded the post-WWII foundations of the EU as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on its behalf at an award ceremony in Oslo Monday, paying tribute to “all the Europeans who dreamt of a continent at peace with itself, and to all those who day by day make this dream a reality”.
Addressing attendees alongside EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, he spoke of the enduring legacy of the EU bringing peace to Europe, as he insisted it still had the ability to “break this endless cycle of violence, we can stop the logic of vengeance, we can build a brighter future, together”.
The work of the establishment of the European Union, he contended, went far beyond cold treaties, he contended, it brought lasting peace through reconciliation and a new vocabulary: “For people Europe was a promise, Europe equalled hope,” he summarised.
“Symbolic gestures alone cannot cement peace”, he argued, arguing instead for the EU’s “secret weapon” of “binding our interests so tightly that war becomes materially impossible”. Cautioning against complacency, however, he said that Europe must maintain its duty to preserving peace, as war becomes distant memory for the new generation of Europeans, as he introduced “another historic task now lies ahead of us: keeping peace where there is peace”.
Economic hardship naturally leads to a resurgence stereotypes and a focus on the individual, he admitted, however the path back to prosperity lies in working together to promote “our common conviction”, he insisted. Describing the beauty of Europe as its ability to reinvent itself, he said it was the responsibility of “the next generations to take this common adventure further”.
Assuming the floor, Barroso added that the “European Union is not only about peace among nations...it embodies, as a community of values, this vision of freedom and justice”.
Praising the European ideal for spreading democracy and hope across the region, by opening up its borders to neighbouring countries, in particular the Balkan nations, he contended it was able to offer this gift “Because it places the person and respect of human dignity at its heart. Because it gives a voice to differences while creating unity”.
A common currency and common laws helps deliver peace to Europe, he added, attributed the “genius” of guaranteeing peace to all now-27 member states rests in the necessity of thinking “beyond the nation-state”.
Contending that “abiding by common norms serves universal values”, he insisted the EU can continue to be a key player on the global stage and serve as “a powerful inspiration for many around the world. Because the challenges faced from one region to the other may differ in scale but they do not differ in nature”.
Invoking the rhetoric of “never again”, he said that the “absolute evil” of the Holocaust and practical experience of extreme nationalism amongst nation states had demonstrates beyond doubt the necessity “to avoid the same mistakes being made again”, as well as serving as the basis for the universal twin principles of global solidarity and global responsibility.
Marking the significance of the award of the EU’s nobel peace prize on the global Human Rights Day, Barroso insisted Europe would “always stand by those who are in pursuit of peace and human dignity”, as he condemned the escalating human rights abuses in Syria as “a stain on the world’s conscience and the international community has a moral duty to address it”.
Praising global human rights activists “who put their lives at risk to defend the values that we cherish”, he added that Europe world heed their calls, as “no prison wall can silence their voice”.
Committing Europe’s “efforts to fight for lasting peace, freedom and justice in Europe and in the world”, he contended “the European project has shown that it is possible for peoples and nations to come together across borders”, concluding:
“Here today, our hope, our commitment, is that, with all women and men of good will, the European Union will help the world come together.”
Earlier Monday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was “fitting that the presentation of this prestigious prize comes on the day of the celebration of human rights”, as she praised the EU’s recognised achievements in “reconciliation, democracy and the promotion of human rights, which helped extend the area of peace and stability across the continent”.
Meanwhile, Sunday at a press conference in Oslo ahead of the award ceremony, Barroso paraphrased Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s words in announcing the award to the EU, when he said "This is the right moment to give a clear message to Europe to preserve what we have achieved… This is a prize to have a better organised world to have stability and peace".
“We will honour this prize and we will preserve what has been achieved. It is in the common interest of our citizens. And it will allow Europe to contribute in shaping that "better organised world" in line with the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law that we cherish and believe in,” pledged Barroso.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz will pass on the award to European citizens in a symbolic ceremony at the sitting plenary session in Strasbourg Wednesday, which will also see Schulz and Commission President Barroso address the plenary and the 20 European citizens invited to the event.