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Europe celebrates timely distraction amid gloom

Friday, October 12, 2012 - 02:33

Oct. 12 - European leaders, citizens and business analysts react to the European Union winning the Nobel Peace Prize at a time when there's great discord over the bloc's economic future. Ivor Bennett reports

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As Europe's financial troubles dominate a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Tokyo, a most welcome and unexpected distraction: SOUNDBITE (English) THORBJOERN JAGLAND, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN, SAYING: "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 is to be awarded to the European Union." The Nobel committee handed the EU the prize, worth 1.2 million dollars, for advancing peace over 6 decades. The bloc's leaders wasted little time in celebrating the surprise honour. In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it served as an important reminder in difficult times. SOUNDBITE: (English) EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, SAYING: "It is justified recognition for a unique project that works for the benefit of its citizens and also for the benefit of the world." Only days ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was heckled by anti-austerity protestors in Athens - some waving Nazi flags. Back in Berlin, the leader of Europe's biggest economy said the award underscored the importance of working together for the collective good. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING: "Six decades of peace in Europe is a long time for us who live in the European Union, yet in history, it's only a blink of an eye. That's why we must never forget that in order to keep this peace, democracy and freedom, we have to work hard over and over again." Reaction to the news among those at the sharp end of Europe's debt crisis was by no means unified. In Madrid, some Spaniards shrugged. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) JUAN, BALLOON SELLER, SAYING: "It's not like this puts food on my table or anything." In Prague, there were questions. SOUNDBITE: (Czech) VLADIMIR PITR, RESIDENT, SAYING: "Personalities were always awarded the (Nobel Peace) Prize, not states. I don't think the EU's done anything for peace." And in Paris, there was praise. SOUNDBITE: (French) YANNICK COMENGE SAYING: "We need symbols and this kind of thing in order to give a better image of Europe." Europe Analyst Antonio Barroso says the timing of the prize is as telling as any words used to explain it. SOUNDBITE (English) ANTONION BARROSO, EURASIA GROUP EUROPE ANALYST, SAYING: "Clearly there is a political motivitation, like you know when they gave the prize to Barack Obama, the President of the United States. You know, there is a political motiviation to say, look, what you've got in the European Union is very important right now, there is a fractious discussion, we tend to forget what we're here for, let's get your act together." Germany's come under pressure at the IMF meeting in Tokyo to soften its stance on austerity but is so far holding firm. While Europe's past achievements will be celebrated, the continuing impasse is a reminder there are still pressing questions over the bloc's future. Ivor Bennett, Reuters

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Europe celebrates timely distraction amid gloom

Friday, October 12, 2012 - 02:33

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