European Union leaders said the bloc will fix its flaws and emerge more united from the sovereign debt crisis as they arrived in Oslo to collect this year’s Nobel Peace prize.
“We are going through a difficult period,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said at a press conference today at the Nobel Institute. “We will come out of this time of uncertainty and recession stronger than before.”
The EU was awarded the prize on Oct. 12 for helping to reconcile warring superpowers in the wake of two world wars and for promoting democracy and human rights. The bloc has grown from six countries in 1957 to 27, embracing 500 million people with an economy of $15 trillion. It’s now struggling to contain a financial crisis that has entered its fourth year and sent unemployment to record highs.
EU leaders have taken the award as a call to action to prevent the crisis from halting the drive toward a united continent. The Norwegian Nobel Committee coupled praise for the EU’s past with a warning that economic weakness and social instability pose a risk to the historic achievement of entrenching peace and democracy on the continent.
The committee singled out Greece, Spain and Portugal -- all at the forefront of the debt crisis -- as beneficiaries of the political and economic freedoms that are fundamental elements of the EU.
European leaders meet this week in Brussels to try to agree on the next step in reviving the region’s economy. At a summit on Dec. 13-14, the heads of state and government will debate a roadmap for the overhaul of the euro area, including increased powers to intervene in national budgets and the establishment of a single banking supervisor.
The financial crisis has shown the bloc wasn’t “fully equipped to deal with a crisis of this magnitude” and it’s now working to complete an economic union, Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said at today’s press conference.
The prize ceremony is scheduled to be held in Oslo City Hall tomorrow, and will be attended by about 20 of the union’s leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.