8:43am

Mon December 10, 2012
The Two-Way

After Helping Europe Rise From Ashes, EU Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

Giving the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union has been controversial.

As The Associated Press reports:

Three previous Peace Prize laureates "South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina, have demanded that the prize money of $1.2 million not be paid this year. They say the bloc contradicts the values associated with the prize because it relies on military force to ensure security."

In Oslo today, EU representatives accepted the prize. The money, they previously announced, will go "to children affected by war and conflicts across the world."

As for being given the honor, here are some of the highlights from the lecture given by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission (video here):

-- "Of course, peace might have come to Europe without the Union. Maybe. We will never know. But it would never have been of the same quality. A lasting peace, not a frosty cease-fire. To me, what makes it so special, is reconciliation." (Van Rompuy)

-- "Our continent, risen from the ashes after 1945 and united in 1989, has a great capacity to reinvent itself. It is to the next generations to take this common adventure further. I hope they will seize this responsibility with pride. And that they will be able to say, as we here today: Ich bin ein Europäer. Je suis fier d'être européen. I am proud to be European." (Van Rompuy)

-- "So, where there was war, there is now peace. But another historic task now lies ahead of us: keeping peace where there is peace. After all, history is not a novel, a book we can close after a Happy Ending: we remain fully responsible for what is yet to come.

"This couldn't be more clear than it is today, when we are hit by the worst economic crisis in two generations, causing great hardship among our people, and putting the political bonds of our Union to the test.

"Parents struggling to make ends meet, workers recently laid off, students who fear that, however hard they try, they won't get that first job: when they think about Europe, peace is not the first thing that comes to mind...

"When prosperity and employment, the bedrock of our societies, appear threatened, it is natural to see a hardening of hearts, the narrowing of interests, even the return of long-forgotten fault-lines and stereotypes. For some, not only joint decisions, but the very fact of deciding jointly, may come into doubt.

"And while we must keep a sense of proportion — even such tensions don't take us back to the darkness of the past — the test Europe is currently facing is real.

"If I can borrow the words of Abraham Lincoln at the time of another continental test, what is being assessed today is 'whether that Union, or any Union so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.' " (Van Rompuy)

-- "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. In many ways, it attests to the quest for a cosmopolitan order, in which one person's gain does not need to be another person's pain; in which abiding by common norms serves universal values.

"That is why despite its imperfections, the European Union can be, and indeed is, 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." (Barroso)

-- "As a community of nations that has overcome war and fought totalitarianism, we will always stand by those who are in pursuit of peace and human dignity.

"And let me say it from here today: the current situation in Syria is a stain on the world's conscience and the international community has a moral duty to address it." (Barroso)

-- "Over the past sixty years, the European project has shown that it is possible for peoples and nations to come together across borders. That it is possible to overcome the differences between 'them' and 'us.'

"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." (Barroso)

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.