Address by Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the European Union, Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2012
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Heads of State, Heads of Government, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Honorable Presidents of the European Union,
At a time when Europe is undergoing great difficulties, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to call to mind what the European Union means for peace in Europe.
After the two world wars in the last century, the world had to turn away from nationalism and move in the direction of international cooperation. The United Nations were formed. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.
For Europe, where both world wars had broken out, the new internationalism had to be a binding commitment. It had to build on human rights, democracy and enforceable principles of the rule of law—and on economic cooperation aimed at making the countries equal partners in the European marketplace. By these means, the countries would be bound together so as to make new wars impossible.
The Coal and Steel Community of 1951 marked the start of a process of reconciliation, which has continued right to the present day. Beginning in Western Europe, the process continued across the east-west divide when the Berlin Wall fell and has currently reached the Balkans, where there were bloody wars less than 15 to 20 years ago.
The EU has constantly been a central driving force throughout these processes of reconciliation.
The EU has, in fact, helped to bring about both the “fraternity between nations” and the “promotion of peace congresses” of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.
The Nobel Peace Prize is, therefore, both deserved and necessary. We offer our congratulations.
In the light of the financial crisis that is affecting so many innocent people, we can see that the political framework in which the union is rooted is more important now than ever. We must stand together. We have collective responsibility. Without this European cooperation, the result might easily have been new protectionism, new nationalism, with the risk that the ground gained would be lost.
We know from the inter-war years that this is what can happen when ordinary people pay the bills for a financial crisis triggered by others. But the solution now as then is not for the countries to act on their own at the expense of others, nor for vulnerable minorities to be given the blame.
That would lead us into yesterday’s traps. Europe needs to move forward, safeguard what has been gained and improve what has been created, enabling us to solve the problems threatening the European community today. This is the only way to solve the problems created by the financial crisis, to everyone’s benefit.
In 1926, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to the foreign ministers of France and Germany, Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann, and the following year to Ferdinand Buisson and Ludwig Quidde, all for their efforts to advance Franco-German reconciliation.
In the 1930s, the reconciliation degenerated into conflict and war.
After the Second World War, the reconciliation between Germany and France laid the very foundations for European integration. The two countries had waged three wars in the space of 70 years: the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-71, then the first and second world wars.
In the first years after 1945, it was very tempting to continue along the same track, emphasizing revenge and conflict. Then, on the 9th of May 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presented the plans for a Coal and Steel Community.
The governments in Paris and Bonn decided to set history on a completely different course by placing the production of coal and steel under a joint authority. The principal elements of armaments production were to form the beams of a structure for peace. Economic cooperation would from then on prevent new wars and conflicts in Europe, as Schuman put it in his 9th of May speech: “The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”
The reconciliation between Germany and France is probably the most dramatic example in history to show that war and conflict can be turned so rapidly into peace and cooperation.
The presence here today of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande makes this day particularly symbolic.
The next step after the Coal and Steel Community was the signing of the Treaty of Rome on the 25th of March 1957. The four freedoms were now established. Borders were to be opened, and the whole economy, not just the coal and steel industry, was to be woven into a whole. The six heads of state, of Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, wrote that they “by thus pooling their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, and calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts, have decided to create a European Economic Community.”
In 1973, Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark decided to respond to this call. Greece joined in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986. Membership of the EEC and EU was the right of all European countries “whose system of government is founded on the principles of democracy” and who accept the conditions for membership. Membership consolidated democracy in these countries, not least through the generous support schemes from which Greece, Portugal and Spain were able to benefit.
The next step forward came when the Berlin Wall fell in the course of a miraculous half-year in 1989. Opportunities opened up for the neutral countries Sweden, Finland and Austria to become members.
But the new democracies, too, wished to become parts of the West militarily, economically and culturally. In that connection, membership of the EU was a self-evident objective and a means, enabling the transition to democracy to be made as painlessly as possible. If they were left to themselves, nobody could be certain how things would turn out, for history has taught us: Freedom comes at a price.
The difference is very marked between what happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall and what is now happening in the countries of the Arab world. The Eastern European countries were quickly able to participate in a European community of values, join in a large market and benefit from economic support. The new democracies in the vicinity of Europe have no such safe haven to make for. The transition to democracy also looks like being long and painful and has already triggered war and conflict.
In Europe, the division between east and west was broken down more quickly than anyone could have anticipated. Democracy has been strengthened in a region where democratic traditions were very limited; the many disputes over ethnicity and nationality that had so troubled the region have largely been settled.
Mikhail Gorbachev created the external conditions for the emancipation of Eastern Europe, and national leaders headed by Lech Walesa took the necessary local initiatives. Both Walesa and Gorbachev received their well-deserved Peace Prizes.
Now, at last, it is the EU’s turn. Events during the months and years following the fall of the Berlin Wall may have amounted to the greatest act of solidarity ever on the European continent.
This collective effort could not have come about without the political and economic weight of the EU behind it.
On this day, we must also pay tribute to the Federal Republic of Germany and its Chancellor Helmut Kohl for assuming responsibility and accepting the enormous costs on behalf of the inhabitants of the Federal Republic when East Germany was included practically overnight in a united Germany.
Not everything was settled yet, however. With the fall of communism, an old problem returned: the Balkans. Tito’s authoritarian rule had kept a lid on the many ethnic conflicts. When that lid was lifted, violent conflicts blazed up again the like of which we had thought we would never see again in a free Europe.
Five wars were, in fact, fought in the space of a few years. We will never forget Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were massacred in a single day.
Now, however, the EU is seeking to lay the foundations for peace also in the Balkans. Slovenia joined the EU in 2004. Croatia will become a member in 2013. Montenegro has opened membership negotiations, and Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have been given candidate status.
The Balkans were and are a complicated region. Unresolved conflicts remain. Suffice it to mention that the status of Kosovo is still not finally settled. Bosnia-Hercegovina is a state that hardly functions owing to the veto the three population groups have become entitled to exercise against each other.
The paramount solution is to extend the process of integration that has applied in the rest of Europe. Borders become less absolute; which population group one belongs to no longer determines one’s security.
The EU must accordingly play a main part here, too, to bring about not only an armistice but real peace.
For several decades, Turkey and the EU have been discussing their relations to each other. After the new government, headed by the AKP party, won a clear parliamentary majority, the aim of EU membership has provided a guideline for the process of reform in Turkey. There can be no doubt that this has contributed to strengthening the development of democracy there. This benefits Europe, but success in this respect is also important to developments in the Middle East.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has time and again presented the Peace Prize to champions of human rights. Now, the prize is going to an organization of which one cannot become a member without first having adapted all one’s legislation to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
But human rights as such are not enough. We can see this now that country after country is undergoing serious social unrest, because misplaced policies, corruption and tax evasion have led to money being poured into gaping black holes.
This leads, understandably, to protests. Demonstrations are part of democracy. The task of politics is to transform the protests into concrete political action. The way out of the difficulties is not to dismantle the European institutions.
We need to maintain solidarity across borders, as the union is doing by canceling debts and adopting other concrete support measures and by formulating the framework for a finance industry on which we all depend. Unfaithful servants must be removed. These are preconditions for the continuing belief of the European masses in the compromises and moderation, which the union is now demanding of them.
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Heads of Government and Heads of State, ladies and gentlemen, Honourable Presidents of the European Union, Jean Monnet said that “nothing can be achieved without people, but nothing becomes permanent without instutions.”
We are not gathered here today in the belief that the EU is perfect. We are gathered in the belief that here in Europe we must solve our problems together. For that purpose, we need institutions that can enter into the necessary compromises. We need institutions to ensure that both nation-states and individuals exercise self-control and moderation. In a world of so many dangers, compromise, self-control and moderation are the principal needs of the 21st century.
Eighty million people had to pay the price for the exercise of extremism. Together, we must ensure that we do not lose what we have built on the ruins of the two world wars.
What this continent has achieved is truly fantastic, from being a continent of war to becoming a continent of peace. In this process, the European Union has figured most prominently. It, therefore, deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
The frescoes on the walls here in the Oslo City Hall are inspired by Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s frescoes from the 1300s in the Siena town hall, named “Allegory of the effects of good government.”
The fresco shows a living medieval town, with the gates in the wall invitingly wide open to spirited people bringing the harvest in from fruitful fields. But Lorenzetti painted another picture.
“Allegory of the effects of bad government,” It shows Siena in chaos, closed and ravaged by the plague, destroyed by a struggle for power and war.
The two pictures are meant to remind us that it is up to ourselves whether or not we are to live in well-ordered circumstances.
May good government win in Europe. Thank you for your attention.