EU chiefs collect Nobel Peace Prize
Published 10/12/2012 | 13:15
The European Union's three presidents have collected the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of six decades of work promoting "peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights".
Prime Minister David Cameron stayed away - one of six EU leaders to decide not to attend. But his deputy Nick Clegg was there to represent the UK in the splendour of the Nobel Institute in Oslo.
Attendees heard Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern Jagland praise the EU's role in transforming a European "continent of war" into a "continent of peace". He said: "That should not be taken for granted - we have to struggle for it every day".
Mr Jagland emphasised that the same prize had been awarded in the 1920s to the foreign ministers of France and Germany marking post-First World War reconciliation. Then in the 1930s the continent had degenerated into conflict and war once more.
But he said now was the time to celebrate prolonged peace - and welcome the French and German leaders sitting side by side in Oslo.
However, the announcement of the peace award in October caused surprise and controversy in the midst of one of the EU's worst crises and at a time of deep - albeit non-violent - rifts between major member states.
The ceremony comes in the week of yet another EU summit to try to resolve the continuing euro crisis which, according to UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, risks "engendering violence, poverty and despair across Europe".
But European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said: "This is an award for the European project - for the people and the institutions - that day after day, for the last 60 years, have built a new Europe.
"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. The last 60 years have shown that Europe can unite in peace. Over the next 60 years, Europe must lead the global quest for peace."
Receiving the award alongside him were the president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.