The Nobel Peace Prize came with a warning — take care EU, if you want to survive.
But the message was far from clear and the EU’s main players appeared to be listening to a different drum beat.
In the huge red-brick town hall, the bright yellow, orange, and red flowers belied the -10C chill outside.
Trumpets sounded the arrival of the Norwegian royal family and the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, took his place at the podium.
The country usually courts controversy in its choice of annual winner, helping to keep the ceremony on the world’s event calendar.
In a country with little respect for the EU, most of Jagland’s speech was justifying this year’s choice as a bringer of peace and human rights — but with a barbed sting in the tail.
“Human rights is not enough,” he said. Delving into the politics of the present, he mentioned “misplaced policies, corruption, and tax evasion that have led to money poured into gaping black holes”.
Jagland spoke of the need to maintain solidarity across borders, as, he claimed, the EU was doing by canceling debts. He threw another spanner in the works by stating that “unfaithful servants must be removed”. He did not say to whom he was referring. Was it Greece? Germany? Maybe Britain?
But by then the most powerful politicians in the audience had already created their own iconic images for the cameras.
At the mention of the historic reconciliation between Germany and France that lies at the centre of the EU, French President François Hollande leapt to his feet, pulling German chancellor Angela Merkel to hers by grabbing her right hand and turning to face the audience — their clasped fingers raised in the air like conquering heroes.
Perhaps he was thinking of the photograph of one of his predecessors, François Mitterrand, who extended a hand to Helmut Kohl on the ignominious battlefield of Verdun in the rain, 68 years after 750,000 soldiers died there.
The hands down close to their sides could not have been further from any hint of triumphalism.
History was more recent for Taoiseach Enda Kenny who saw Ireland’s recent experience in the ref-erence to pouring “money into gaping black holes”.
“The most obscene crime ever committed in Ireland was the scale of the economic burden placed on people as a consequence of incompetence, greed, and corruption and whatever other areas that will apply when and if court cases take place,” he said afterwards.
Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, which represents the member states, acknowledged that a peace project may appear irrelevant to those without a job, and that these hard times threaten the EU’s ability to work together.
He was perhaps warning the EU leaders that their own power was now in question — that without restoring growth and jobs they will not remain masters of their destiny.
Van Rompuy, echoing that iconic JFK moment in Berlin, declared: “Ich bin ein Europaer” — I am a European.
Merkel, with a lump in her throat and a tear in her eye, glanced at Hollande on her one side, and Polish prime minister Donald Tusk on the other.
The cameras went mad.
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