Today, the European Union has won the Nobel Peace Prize 2012. For over six decades it has contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. Besides the pursuit of peace and prosperity inside Europe, the EU has also been a decisive driver of stability for the world, notably through its relentless efforts to help the victims of conflict and natural disasters. As President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, explained today: "We are proud that the European Union is the world's largest provider of development assistance and humanitarian aid and is at the forefront of global efforts to fight climate change and promote global public goods."
Over the past two decades, EU's humanitarian aid has been the concrete expression of European solidarity with those most in need, affected by conflict or disaster. To name but a few, the EU has been instrumental in providing relief, food shelter and medication to those in need in all of the major crises of the last decade be it in Rwanda during the civil war, the Yugoslavia wars, Darfur, the Great Lake conflicts, the Asian Tsunami or Haiti. Altogether the EU through ECHO, the European Commission Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection Department has helped hundreds of millions of people in more than 140 countries, channelling approximately €14 billion in assistance. Driven by needs and guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, EU humanitarian aid is given without regard for any political agendas, and seeks to help those in the greatest need, irrespective of their nationality, religion, gender, ethnic origin or political affiliation.
More recent examples include Libya, where refugees blocked at the borders received water, food, shelter and medical assistance or the ongoing conflict in Syria, where we are now helping between 1.5 and 2 million people fleeing the conflict inside Syria and to its neighbouring countries.