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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso at the EU Children of Peace Prize ceremony

EU Children of Peace Prize Ceremony/Brussels

18 December 2012


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

War is as old as mankind and so is the aspiration to peace.

And this long-enduring aspiration does not know any boundaries. It does not depend on the colour of your skin or the god you worship.

It is universally shared, as it is now powerfully illustrated here, by this exhibition organised by the Lindau Foundation. And I would like to thank Countess Bettina Bernadotte, President of the Council of the Foundation, and the Chairman of the Board, Professor Wolfgang Schürer, for having lent this striking exhibition to the Commission. I really want to congratulate Peter Badge for his extraordinary good work as a photographer. And let me also thank the presence here among us of the President of European Council Herman Van Rompuy, with whom I shared these unforgettable moments in Oslo. And I would also like to have a special word of thanks to Plantu, the famous cartoonist of Le Monde, that pro bono has given us this beautiful illustration of the Nobel Peace Prize for the European Union

The European Union itself is the child of the victory of peace and democracy over the forces of destruction and oppression.

Human dignity, freedom and justice lie at the very heart of European integration.

And from the very beginning, this has been a vision going well beyond our European borders.

The very first words of the European Union birth certificate, the Schuman declaration, are not on "European peace" but "world peace", "la paix mondiale".

Today, when I look at the Nobel Peace Prize diploma and medal awarded to the European Union, I certainly think of our Union's great past achievements. But what comes to my mind first is our present responsibility to shape a better future and to help those who are our hope for the future.

Therefore, it was obvious for us – the President of the European Council, the President of the Parliament and myself - that the Nobel Peace Prize money should be allocated to those who are still affected by wars and conflicts over the world.

And more precisely to those who are often the hardest hit, because they are the most vulnerable: the children of this world.

Our EU Children of Peace initiative reflects our deep commitment to the cause of peace through a principled human rights agenda.

And the rights of children should not come as an annex. Children rights are human rights and human rights are also children rights.

We want all children to enjoy the constant protection of their rights. We want "children of war" to become "children of peace".

It is unacceptable that in the 21st century children are for ever deprived of their childhood because they have been mutilated by mines, tortured, raped, taken away from their families or forced to enrol as a child soldier.

Just at our door, just a few years ago, 15,000 children were killed during the wars in former-Yugoslavia. In Sarajevo one child in four has been wounded.

And, as we meet here today, 7 million children over the world are refugees, and more than 12 million are displaced within their own country.

Graça Machel, a former minister of education in Mozambique and author of a UNICEF report on the impact of armed-conflict on children, once said, and I quote, "for children the deepest scars of war and flight are the hidden ones."

And our hope is to contribute to heal these scars. It is to give back to these children their natural right to happiness and give them a chance to have access to education.

Each and every girl and boy in the world should have the opportunity to develop her and his talents. And to promote education, it is also to give peace a chance to be a lasting peace.

For this hope to become a reality, we decided to double the amount awarded by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee and invest it in targeted education projects for children in conflict zones.

We turned to humanitarian partner organisations and agencies, which are working on the front line of the children rights. And the four best proposals have now been selected by an independent panel of Commission humanitarian experts. I would like to thank Kristalina Georgieva, our Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, who has been doing a great job all over the world, well recognised by all the humanitarian community, for leading this selection process. And I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues from the Commission, Vice President Viviane Reding and Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, for their presence because Viviane, being on charge of Human Rights, and Androulla, being in charge of Education, I think it is most appropriate that we are together here, in this moment, for children and peace.

I am very happy to present to you the first laureates of the EU Children of Peace initiative.

Together these projects will reach out to over 23,000 children worldwide providing access to basic education and child-friendly spaces:

ACTED is going to work in the Domuz Refugee camp in Northern Iraq with around 4,000 Syrian refugee children;

UNHCR will deliver assistance to 5,000 Colombian children in refugee and IDP camps;

Save the Children UK and the Norwegian Refugee Council will work with 11,000 Congolese children displaced in north Kivu, and refugees in Ethiopia;

And UNICEF will implement a project in Pakistan for the benefit of 3,000 children.

Let me tell you, on a more personal basis, how impressed I was recently when visiting Jordan. I visited a camp organised by UNICEF with Syrian refugees, Syrian girls and boys, that thanks to the contribution of the European Union have the possibility to study. They were so happy, in spite of losing their homes, fleeing their country, seeing their towns destroyed, to have the possibility to go to school. They were so happy to have that school, under the tents, but they were sad, because they could not live in their country in peace.

I would like to warmly congratulate all these partners. And I already look forward to next year because this is certainly not a "one-off"! We are going to keep this initiative. The Nobel Peace Prize entails a lasting responsibility, and we will therefore continue to fund "Children of Peace" projects every year.

I am proud that the European Union has decided to use the Nobel Peace Prize as the foundation of this initiative. It is really what our Union is about from its very early days: solidarity and openness to the rest of the world, the idea of this global responsibility and global solidarity.

And I am also very pleased and moved to see exposed here, in the Berlaymont, drawings and texts of Young Europeans who have taken part in the "Peace, Europe Future contest." These children are the future of our Union!

I thank you for your attention.

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