Feature

EU: A Nobel Prize for keeping Europe at peace

The European Union has earned the award “a hundred times over,” though it comes at an inapt time.

Let the mockers mock, said Nikolaus Blome in Bild (Germany). The European Union has earned its Nobel Peace Prize “a hundred times over.” By unifying Europe, it has “freed and pacified a continent that over the centuries repeatedly drowned in its own blood.” It has stilled the ancient enmity between France and Germany to the point where they will never again go to war with each other. It has helped formerly communist states in Eastern Europe move from dictatorship to democracy. Sure, there’s plenty to criticize about the bureaucracy. But no quibbles can change the fact that now “diplomats and politicians negotiate in courtrooms over disputes which once sent armies to the battlefields.”

You’d actually have to go back centuries “to find an equivalent period without major conflict on European soil,” said Dominique Seux in Les Echos (France). Yet the EU has brought more than just peace. Twenty-seven sovereign states now share the same human rights protections and trade agreements. Many of them share a common currency. The EU is “an astonishing and unprecedented mechanism for forging consensus between countries with different histories, languages, and traditions.” 

Among the ironies here is that Norway, which gives the prize, has rejected EU membership twice in referendums, said Claudi Pérez in El País (Spain). Polls show that some three quarters “would make the same choice” today. In fact, only one in four Norwegians thinks honoring the EU was a good idea, said Harald Stanghelle in Aftenposten (Norway). And abroad, people are asking whether our esteemed Nobel Committee members have lost their minds. But that’s as it should be. The committee has often seemed “audacious, plucking out names that few imagined would be laureates.”

Quite, said London Mayor Boris Johnson in The Daily Telegraph. Who could have dreamed the prize would go “to a clutch of ugly plate-glass office blocks in Brussels”? The EU deserves only a small part of the credit for fostering peace. During the Cold War, it was NATO that protected Europe through “the threat of retaliation against Soviet aggression.” And as for the future, the EU is all but ensuring its own breakup by insisting on an ever closer union with ever less democracy. “You might as well offer recognition to Lance Armstrong for his role in promoting good sportsmanship.”

No doubt, the honor comes at an inapt time, said David Priestland in The Guardian (U.K.). The euro crisis has Germany and Greece at each other’s throats and protesters pouring into the streets all over the Continent. The euro, in fact, “changed the EU from an institution that used economic integration to promote peace to one that is sacrificing peace on the altar of free-market economics.” Perhaps the Nobel Committee was issuing a warning. The member who announced the prize, former Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjorn Jagland, seemed pessimistic. “There is a real danger that Europe will start disintegrating,” he said. “That’s why we must look again to the founding principles.”

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