EIGHTEEN EUROPEAN LEADERS have accepted an invitation to next month’s ceremony to award the Nobel Peace Prize to this year’s controversial winner, the EU, while six others have declined, the Nobel Institute said Thursday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron leads the list of leaders who plan to snub the December 10 event in Oslo, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have said they will attend.
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy called on all its 27 member states and soon-to-be-inducted Croatia to send attendees to the ceremony after the EU won the award on October 12 — a controversial decision that came as a surprise amid the economic crisis racking the bloc.
The ceremony is a politically delicate event for some leaders, including Cameron — whose wry comment that “there will be enough people to collect the prize” was seen as emblematic of his Conservative Party’s distaste for European integration.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a noted eurosceptic, also plan to skip the event.
But Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad said almost two-thirds of EU leaders had accepted the invite.
“All the large countries of the EU have said yes, except one,” he told AFP.
Officially, the award will be given to Van Rompuy together with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
It consists of a diploma, a gold medal and a cheque for eight million kronor (€926,000, $1.2 million). The EU has said it will donate the prize money to children affected by war and conflicts.
In host country Norway, which has itself twice rejected EU membership in referenda, four cabinet ministers from a centrist eurosceptic party have also vowed not to attend, local media reported.
Lundestad condemned their position as “provincial”, saying Norwegians could oppose EU membership while still recognising the bloc’s contribution to peace and democracy.