OSLO — The European Union still needs to shape more integrated policies to address the challenges facing the bloc, including the financial crisis that affected some of its member states, EU leaders said on Sunday one day before receiving the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.
“We are in the process of completing a roadmap to address the financial crisis,” said José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.
Although he admitted that the EU was not fully equipped with the financial crisis, Barroso said that all steps that have been taken to address it are in favour of the EU.
He explained that the financial crisis and the way the EU is dealing with it show that “there is a commitment to go further and [move] forward towards more integrated policy”.
Barroso’s remarks were made at a press conference on Sunday, with EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the president of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, who came to Oslo to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, granted to the European Union “for fostering peace on a continent ravaged by war”.
The prize is being awarded to the EU amid a protest in Oslo on Sunday under the slogan “EU2012: Not a Peace Prize For our Time” which is backed by several former peace prize laureates and representatives of some 50 organisations.
The protesters questioned awarding the prize to the EU amid the current economic crisis in the eurozone.
According to a statement released on Saturday by Norwegian Peace Council Director Hedda Langemyr, over 50 organisations including members of the country’s ruling centre and socialist left parties were set to attend the demonstration on Sunday.
“[The EU] is not a worthy prize winner,” the statement added.
Commenting on this, Schulz said the EU is a “peace project” and if countries want to join, it is because it is a “peaceful region”.
“The EU is the best way to keep peace in the region. The EU is able to project peace and stability in the neighbourhood,” Barroso told reporters.
But he stressed that freedom of speech is a “sacred right”.
“Some do criticise, but my message to all Europeans is a message of peace and reconciliation, and that is why we were recognised by the Nobel Institute this year”, the EU official said.
He also added that giving the prize to the EU by Norway, which is not an EU member, is a “recognition to us”.
Norwegians have rejected EU membership in two referendums.
In October 2012, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 is to be awarded to the EU.
In a statement issued by the committee, it said: “The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
The statement added that the EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. “The committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: The successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights”.
“The stabilising part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” the statement added.
The three EU leaders Barroso, Rompuy and Schulz will receive the award in a ceremony on Monday.
In a press statement issued on Sunday, the European Commission said the Nobel Prize money, $1.2 million, will be allocated to children that are most in need.