EU top trio to receive Nobel Prize at Oslo ceremony

Norwegian soldiers at ceremony, Oslo City Hall - file pic
Image caption The award ceremony at Oslo City Hall is traditionally grand and solemn

The EU's three presidents will jointly receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway next Monday and many other European leaders will be there too.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron will be among a minority of national leaders not going to the ceremony.

Mr Cameron's deputy Nick Clegg will represent the UK at the Oslo event.

There was much surprise when, on 12 October, the Nobel committee awarded the prize to the EU. The eurozone crisis has fuelled anti-EU feelings.

The Nobel committee said that despite the current "grave economic difficulties" and "considerable social unrest" the EU had done much to consolidate peace in Europe since World War II.

"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 committee said.

A Brussels diplomat told the BBC that the three recipients at the ceremony would be: European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz. Both Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso will make speeches in Oslo.

Last month three former Nobel laureates - Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina - jointly criticised this year's choice, saying the EU "clearly is not one of 'the champions of peace' Alfred Nobel had in mind". In a joint letter they said the Nobel committee had "redefined and reshaped the prize" in an illegal way.

The European Commission says the Nobel Prize money - about 930,000 euros (£755,000; $1.2m) - "will be allocated to children that are most in need".

At last month's EU summit the European Council made clear to the leaders of all 27 EU countries that they would be welcome to attend, said the Brussels diplomat, who requested anonymity.

The delegation is expected to include Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, as well as the prime ministers of at least half the member states.

However, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are not expected to send their presidents or prime ministers.

Young European delegates

Four young Europeans chosen through a European Commission competition will also attend the ceremony - ranking equally as EU delegates alongside the politicians.

The four, whose ages range from 12 to 23, are from Spain, Italy, Poland and Malta. Three are female and one male.

In the competition young people across the EU and in countries waiting to join were asked "Peace, Europe, Future: What does Peace in Europe mean to you?"

Children aged eight to 12 expressed their answer in a drawing, young people aged 13 to 24 in a short text of maximum 120 characters, in any of the EU's 23 official languages.

Mr Cameron's position on the EU differs markedly from that of his deputy Nick Clegg.

Mr Cameron withdrew his Conservative MEPs from the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament, to form a new Eurosceptic group. Dozens of UK Conservatives in the parliament and at Westminster want a referendum to repatriate powers from the EU, or even to pull out altogether.

Mr Clegg spent five years working at the European Commission and in 1999-2004 served as a Liberal MEP.

He speaks Dutch, French, German and Spanish and says he has an "internationalist outlook".

A spokesperson for Mr Clegg called the Nobel award for the EU "a tribute to the people, not the institution".

"Coming from a family that has been bought together in Britain after suffering the horrors of both world wars in different parts of the globe, this has particular resonance for the deputy prime minister. His family's history is intertwined with that of the process of peace in Europe," the spokesperson said.

In a speech on 1 November Mr Clegg scorned the Eurosceptic agenda, saying "it is wishful thinking to suggest we could - effectively - give ourselves a free pass to undercut the Single Market... only to then renegotiate our way back into the laws that suit us". He added: "the rest of Europe simply wouldn't have it".

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