The European Union, winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said at the Oslo award ceremony Monday that Syria was “a stain” on the world’s conscience.
“Let me say it from here today,” said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. “The current situation in Syria is a stain on the world’s conscience and the international community has a moral duty to address it.”
Barroso said that on international human rights day, the thoughts of the 27-nation bloc were with those “all over the world who put their lives at risk to defend the values that we cherish.”
At talks in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign ministers were discussing the situation in Syria, where heavy fighting was continuing in a 21-month conflict against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
In the same vain, the EU Nobel winners pledged at the award ceremony “to stand by” the euro, saying the single currency was one of the strongest symbols of unity in the bloc’s 60-year history.
“Today one of the most visible symbols of our unity is in everyone’s hands,” said Barroso. “It is the euro, the currency of our European Union. We will stand by it.”
The EU was handed the prize as it faces its worst crisis in six decades for turning Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”
Tensions between the 17 nations that share the euro and those that remain outside the single currency are heightening amid crisis-linked demands to tighten economic and monetary union.
Tense relations between the bloc’s “big two” nations France and Germany are meanwhile holding up a deal to set up a banking union seen as a key to the future of the eurozone.
First steps to such a union will be at the center of a two-day summit Thursday and Friday that EU officials hope will agree a roadmap to tighter economic and monetary union in the next couple of years.