50 years of the EU: Nobel Prize winners
celebrate at the European Parliament
European citizenship -
Nobel prize Laureates in Parliament's hemicycle
On 9 May - Europe Day - the European Parliament
welcomed European winners of the Nobel Prize to a debate in
Brussels. The event formed part of the celebrations to mark 50
years since the signing of the inaugural Rome Treaty. In this
special commemorative focus to mark the occasion we begin with
laureates' remarks to MEPs. It continues with interviews with some
of the Nobel Laureates winners which you can read in our focus.
See the sections below for the interviews.
The event was an
opportunity to debate the past, present and future of the EU,
focusing on scientific, intellectual and cultural achievements.
The proceedings were opened by Parliament's President, Hans-Gert
Pöttering, who briefly explained the laureates' importance to the
He said that the efforts of Betty Williams
and Mairead Corrigan to promote peace in Northern Ireland
highlighted the importance of reconciliation - a key to the
history of post-war Europe. Amnesty International's tireless work
for human dignity illustrated another "pillar of the European
Union" as did Lech Walesa's struggle for human rights in Poland.
The work of physicist Carlo Rubbia was important to the search for
clean energy, while Rita Levi-Montalcini's medical research
contributed to cancer research. Jack Steinberger and Martinus
Veltmann were not only leading physicists but also, respectively,
a committed disarmament campaigner and a big supporter of
Esperanto. Paul Josef Crutzen's work on ozone depletion was
John Hume and David Trimble were lauded for their work on the
Northern Ireland peace process. "What happened at Stormont
yesterday is a testament to your achievements", said Mr Pöttering. Reinhard
Selten's contribution to economics and Timothy Hunt's work in
medical research were also outstanding examples of European
In all cases, said President Pöttering, "your work is built on a
vision of the future, and on our 50th anniversary we too should be
looking to the future". He said, "we seek inspiration from the
courage of the founding fathers" of the EU "but also from you,
winners of the Nobel Prize, who have made such a tremendous
contribution to Europe's achievements over the past 50 years. You
should give us courage to work for a new breakthrough" on the
Nobel Prize winners address the European Parliament
Rita Levi-Montalcini was joint winner of the
Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1986 for discoveries of
growth factors. She said the EU's "enormous developments can be
extended further, not just throughout Europe but across the whole
Prof. Sir Timothy Hunt jointly won the Noble
Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 for the discovery of
cyclins, a class of proteins. He told MEPs that, after visits to
Paris and Rome in his youth, he had "never understood those of my
countrymen who have such a suspicious attitude to the rest of
Europe". He praised "the advent of the ERC" (European Research
Council), which "promises to really strengthen European science"
but said science must be free to pursue its own ends in academic
institutions. He concluded by saying "it is a shameful fact that
among the top 20 universities in the world, 15 are in the US, 1 in
Japan, 3 in the UK and 1 in Switzerland. Think about that!"
Prof. Reinhard Selten was jointly awarded the
Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994 for contributions to game theory.
He highlighted the success of economic and monetary union and
stressed the importance of preserving the "independence of the ECB".
He added that a major obstacle to a European identity was "the
language problem", arguing that the answer was not the "domination
of one national language" but for everyone to learn Esperanto.
Professor Carlo Rubbia, who won the 1984 Nobel
Prize for Physics, recalled that the EU was born out of the tragic
events of the 20th century and WW2. He stressed the "indispensable
and fundamental role of science in development". The EU, he said,
had strongly supported fundamental research in an international
context, notably CERN, European Organization for Nuclear
Professor Martinus Veltman, who won the Nobel
Prize for physics in 1999, said that he was an enthusiastic
supporter of Europe also citing the CERN example. He noted that
CERN has only two working languages - English and French. He said
this could be applied to the EU institutions as a "way of saving
money" arguing that those that had created the euro would have "the
sense to solve this problem". Finally, Professor Veltman quoted
Jean-Paul Sartre who he said had said: "The suffering of the
Palestinian people justified terrorism". Professor Veltman said "You
should not boycott people living in a concentration camp".
Dick Oosting, representing Amnesty International,
which won the Nobel Peace prize in 1977, said "the EU has an
important role to play as a peace project, a union based on values
and as a force for change in the world." He said "the EU must
close the gap between values and attitudes, the EU needs to be
credible" on climate change and security.
John Hume (a former MEP), who won the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1998, called the EU "the best example in the history of
the world of conflict resolution." It is based, he said, on three
principles: Respect for difference, institutions which respect
this difference and the healing process. The countries of the EU
are "working together in their common interests."
"Now that the position in Northern Ireland
is in my view firmly and finally settled, we can join in this
celebration without embarrassment" said Lord David Trimble,
winner of the Nobel Peace Price in 1998. "We must not build a
world of competing blocs (and) "we cannot ignore the divisions and
conflicts that exist in various parts of the world." He said the
aid that we give should begin to enable economies elsewhere and
societies elsewhere in the world to enter into the marketplace on
an equal basis
The co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Price, Mairead
Corrigan Maguire, expressed "tremendous solidarity with
the people of Northern Ireland" and said today was "surely a day
for celebration and to give thanks because we are on the way to
peace." She said, "What the Israelis are doing in Palestine is
building an apartheid system. The European Parliament has a
responsibility to do more than just pay lip service and rhetoric."
Betty Williams, the other winner of the 1976
Nobel Peace Prize, focused on the problem of child poverty. "Every
6 seconds, somewhere in our world, a child dies of hunger and
preventable diseases." She called on the EP to help "turn this
unbearable situation of pain and death around."
Lech Walesa, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
1983, said that the EU was on the "final straight" towards
becoming fully united, but that "we have to come up with ideas
worthy of those from 50 years back", and in particular "a vision
which will enable us to deal with the problems that come our way."
Mr Walesa called for "10 commandments of values to solve all our
problems." We've taken a very material approach - tanks, missiles,
business, dollars" and now is the time to focus on the common
values held by the members of the EU.
Below you can read a full record of the interviews which
took place in the European Parliament on 9 May