Soon after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union, RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak spoke to EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele for his reaction. He filed this interview from Brussels.
RFE/RL: In awarding this year's Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, the Nobel committee highlighted the positive effects of EU enlargement. As the EU's enlargement commissioner, what is your reaction?
Stefan Fuele: I did not see that coming, but that makes my joy even better. And what perfect timing, just two days after the presentation of the progress report on [EU] enlargement!
RFE/RL: How will the prize affect your personal work?
Fuele: For me it is a huge satisfaction because enlargement for me is a matter of my heart and soul but it means a lot to many, hundreds of my colleagues, appreciation for the work being done and encouragement for the next [EU enlargement package] for the colleagues working both in Brussels and in the enlargement country capitals."
RFE/RL: Do you think that the prize will act as a catalyst to further EU enlargement?
Fuele: Absolutely. At the time when some are talking about enlargement fatigue and others about reform fatigue, the Nobel Peace Prize is a tremendous encouragement and I hope that it will make both politicians and citizens think seriously about the transformative power of enlargement. I hope it will strengthen our argument that deeper integration and enlargement should accompany each other because this is the right way to strengthen the European Union.
RFE/RL: What message does the prize send to the capitals in the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe?
Fuele: The most important [is that it] will be a timely reminder that they are part of the most successful and ambitious European project. We are missing good news these days and this one about the Nobel Peace Prize for the European Union is definitely a good news and not only for enlargement countries but for the European Union as a whole. I don’t see just a light at the end of the tunnel anymore, I see a beacon now after this.
RFE/RL: Do you think the prize will have any effect on the old EU member states that are more reluctant to expand the club?
Fuele: I think it will open their minds. We sometimes are too much concentrated, and probably rightly so, [about] our own internal issues and domestic challenges, but this is the time and this is an opportunity to think about having in our hands the most powerful, transformative instrument, which enlargement is. And I hope that they will stop looking at enlargement and deepening integration as two separate issues but as two parallel processes which side by side are strengthening the European Union and not the other way around.