The EU is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2012. My first thoughts: most welcome, unexpected, important. Unexpected, naturally, as there is are so many across the globe fighting for peace and democracy, who also deserve this prize – dissidents and organizations fighting an uphill battle.
However, giving the award to the European Union is indeed important. In these times of financial unrest and a faltering faith in the European project, it is worth reminding us why the EU was founded in the first place. To remember how important it is for Europe to solve its problems together, and how distant such cooperation seemed not too many decades ago.
Through its enlargement and ’soft power’, the EU played a crucial role in the democratic development of Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain. This influence is still present – today, the EU promotes democracy, rule of law and peaceful solutions in our neighbouring countries.
But with strength comes responsibility. If the EU is to maintain global credibility, we have to show that our work for human rights, democracy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination is valid outside as well as inside of the EU. We must remain vigilant if those values are undermined within our Union.
In my area as Commissioner, that also means that the EU must take a greater responsibility for asylum seekers and not abandon those in need. The same goes for our relations with our neighbouring countries who are heading towards democracy following the Arab Spring. There, the EU must give help and support, and truly be deserving of this important prize.