More than 2,000 people hailed the winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Monday evening, even though organizers of the traditional torchlight parade had abandoned the project weeks ago because they did not feel the European Union (EU) was a worthy winner. Other groups took over and supporters turned out in force.
Police estimated that the crowd in front of Oslo’s Grand Hotel was at least three times the size of an alternative protest parade on Sunday evening, when around 500-700 persons marched against this year’s Peace Prize. That was much less than expected, and organizers blamed cold weather.
It was even colder Monday night than Sunday, though, and Paal Frisvold, head of the pro-EU organization Europabevegelsen was relieved and gratified. “I’m really touched that so many showed up,” Frisvold told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
The three presidents of major EU institutions who had formally accepted the Peace Prize earlier in the day appeared on the balcony of the Grand Hotel, as is customary, to see all the torchlights and acknowledge the cheers of the crowd. Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament, Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU Commission, and EU President Herman Van Rompuy, waved back and flashed “V” for victory signals. All were smiling from ear to ear, and seemed to be enjoying every second. Van Rompuy even took a photo of himself and posted it on Twitter (shown on our front page).
They then retreated back inside to the warmth of the hotel, where they were the guests of honour at the annual Nobel Banquet, also attended by King Harald, Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
Asked why he thought so many people turned out to hail the prize winners, Frisvold said he couldn’t be sure, especially when public opinion polls currently indicate that fully 80 percent of Norwegian voters still oppose EU membership. He suspected, though, that most Norwegians do believe the EU has been an historic force in maintaining peace on a continent that was mired in war for centuries and wanted to make the EU guests feel welcome in Oslo.
The Nobel program continues Tuesday with various meetings, including a visit by Schulz to the island of Utøya, the scene of last year’s massacre of Labour Party youth. The annual Nobel Concert will be held Tuesday evening at the Oslo Spektrum arena, also in honour of the Peace Prize winners.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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