OSLO, Norway – The EU received the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday for promoting peace and human rights in Europe following the devastation of World War II, and the bloc was urged to use that unity in its battle with an economic crisis that is causing suffering for many of its citizens.
About 20 European government leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Premier Mario Monti, attended the ceremony in the capital of Norway, an oil-rich country that has twice rejected joining the European Union.
Not everyone approved the decision to give the prize to the EU, created 60 years ago as Europe was struggling to recover from a war that killed millions of people.
Three Peace Prize laureates – South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina – have demanded the prize money of $1.2 million not be paid this year. They said the bloc contradicts the values associated with the prize because it relies on military force to ensure security.
Prize committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland handed out the Nobel diplomas and medals to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and president of the EU Parliament Martin Schulz earlier at a ceremony in Oslo’s City Hall attended by heads of state, royalty and international dignitaries.
In his awarding speech, Jagland said the EU had been instrumental in turning “a continent of war” into one of peace.
Similar ceremonies were being held in the Swedish capital for the Nobel laureates in medicine, chemistry, physics and literature.