23rd Mar 2018

Barroso and Van Rompuy win battle for Nobel limelight

The EU has choreographed an elaborate solution to the conundrum of who should pick up its Nobel peace prize.

Under the plan, agreed in the margins of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (18 October), European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Council head Herman Van Rompuy will accept the gong and make speeches at the gala in Oslo in December.

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  • The choreographed decision comes after a week of wrangling (Photo: OZinOH)

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz will go with them but will not speak.

The 27 EU leaders are to sit in the audience, but diplomats doubt whether all of them will actually turn up.

"To mark this joyful occasion I hope all EU heads of state or government will be able to join celebrations in Oslo in December," Van Rompuy tweeted on Thursday.

"If the heads of state and government go to Oslo to watch, to applaud, I find that quite nice," Schulz told press.

The Nobel prize money of just under €1 million - which works out at a fifth of one centime for each of the 500 million EU citizens - will go to an as yet unidentified charity.

Over dinner on Thursday, leaders batted around alternative ideas for the gala.

Denmark, Finland and the UK liked EU commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom's suggestion to send 27 children instead. The Finnish foreign minister proposed sending 27 World War II veterans along with them.

But the more creative options did not fly.

The summit comes just one week after the Nobel committee made its decision.

At a summit dominated by bad bank and bailout worries, diplomats joked that the EU has no ambitions to win a Nobel for economics.

On a more serious note, Van Rompuy said: "Many [EU leaders] referred to the Nobel prize as a tribute for the Union's past achievements and an encouragement for the future."

French President Francois Hollande noted that the group-of-27 must "make Europe prevail over national interests."

Meanwhile, the Nobel is already being used as a stick with which to beat the EU over its failures to live up to values.

Kenneth Roth, the head of the US-based NGO Human Rights Watch, also on Thursday tweeted that the EU needs to do more for refugees to merit the prize: "to live up to Nobel honor, EU should do better job welcoming refugees fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia."

There are "170,000 Syrians in Turkey but Nobel winner EU had a fit when they let 300 cross to Greece" the NGO added in a second tweet.


A new narrative for Europe

Few could dispute the Nobel committee’s assessment the EU has helped turn a continent of war into a continent of peace, but many have questioned its timing.

Six EU leaders to skip Nobel gala

Six EU leaders, including the UK, are to skip the Nobel gala next month, as criticism of the award multiplies.

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