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Focus

50 years of the EU: Nobel Prize winners celebrate at the European Parliament
European citizenship - 16-05-2007 - 12:51
Nobel prize Laureates in Parliament's hemicycle: 9 May
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 EU project.
 
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 especially topical. 
 
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 research.
 
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 constitution.
 
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 planet".
 
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 Research. 
 
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