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Well-deserved and timely: the EU receives the Nobel Peace Prize

, by FM Arouet

The EU has unexpectedly been attributed the Peace Prize from the Nobel Institute. This is great; for it reminds us that Europe is much more than an imperfect monetary union: it remains a model of long-term peace and stability for the rest of the world.

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The EU’s greatest achievement

The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.’ In its statement, the Nobel Committee mentioned the EU’s success in ensuring reconciliation between France and Germany, the inclusion of Spain, Portugal and Greece after their dictatorships collapsed, reconciliation in the Balkans and the positive influence on Turkey, where the prospect of EU membership ‘advanced democracy and human rights in that country.’

Given the current context, this Nobel Peace Prize comes as a convenient reminder: there are worse things than an economic crisis, i.e. war. Despite the current hardship of millions of Europeans, we should not forget what brought us together, and what we have achieved. We have forgotten how exceptional our times are compared to the last 2,000 years of European history, and that is doubtlessly the EU’s greatest achievement. War between France and Germany has indeed become ‘not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible’, to quote Schuman. Some commentators thought it was strange to reward the EU today, after several decades of peace. This shows how normal the current state of peace has become, which in itself is miraculous.

The EU is so much more than bonds and bailouts

The economic and financial turmoil in the past three years has focused public attention on the costs of the EU. This peace prize comes as a refreshing compliment after the storm of criticism that reached the EU since the beginning of the crisis – and even before that. It will hopefully make Europeans more aware of what the EU really is: the institutional incarnation of the European project. Indeed, this structure has shortcomings, but they should not harm the project it carries. Financial markets live in the very short term: a few words from Mario Draghi can make them change their minds in a matter of seconds. We have been living in this fast-paced short-term environment for almost three years now. This Nobel Prize reminds us that politics and society live in the very long-term, longer than human lives. This is what we should focus on: enhanced cooperation in order to build ‘an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’, as stated in the Treaty of Rome.

The Nobel committee rewarded the EU’s contribution for peace at home, but also abroad. There are two interlinked messages here: the EU achieved a surrealistic task – ending wars in Europe –, hence all other wars can come to an end. By its mere existence, the EU is a role model for the world: can you imagine Israelis and Palestinians celebrating peace and friendship in sixty years time? Currently, hardly anyone would bet on that. This is why a failure of the EU would be so dramatic: it would send exactly the opposite message to the world: hatred amongst nations never dies; it merely sleeps.

Celebrate peace, an everyday struggle

As it appears, we should not take the EU for granted. The ideas that led Europe to the most disastrous deflagration in human history are still around. Hence, Angela Merkel is right to say: ‘We must never forget that in order to keep this peace, democracy and freedom, we have to work hard over and over again.’ Some would say that it is normal for extremist political parties to gain more support in crisis times, as people need a scapegoat to blame for their problems: immigrants, the EU, globalisation and other simplifications come very handy. Indeed, the crisis is a great opportunity for anti-European parties to present the EU as a burden on otherwise thriving Nation-States. The values conveyed by these movements do seem archaic to most of us, but they are still around. Their results at local, regional or national elections show that they are gaining ground in the poorer, most remote parts of Europe. We should not consider the people who decide to follow these movements as irrecoverable ultra-nationalists but as people who feel they have lost more than they have gained from European integration. It is our duty to constantly prove them wrong. This is why peace and collaboration between Europeans is a never-ending task.

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  • On 18 October 2012 at 14:05, by I want out Replying to: Well-deserved and timely: the EU receives the Nobel Peace Prize

    Please can we look a little more closely at the claims that the EU (and its predecessor EC / EEC ) has ‘for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.’

    25th June 1991 after years of unrest, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from the Federation of Yugoslavia with the clear support of the vast majority of their own people. The Yugoslav National Army was ordered to crush this ‘rebellion’. The position of the EC was straight forward and had been declared at the first Rome Council, to support “the preservation of the unity and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia”, that is to act against the wishes of the peoples of Slovenia and Croatia.

    Jacques Santer (President of the European Council and Luxembourg Prime Minister) stated “We have to try all means to save the (Yugoslavian) Federation.”

    Jacques Poos (Luxembourg foreign minister) added “The idea of national self-determination is dangerous as a basis for international order.”

    Finally as well as supportive words the EC provided the Federal Government of Yugoslavia a loan of 700 million ecus.

    We all know how the Federal Governments forces were acting, and we are supposed to believe that by its actions the EC was contributing to peace in Europe rather than supporting a regime who’s president was later indicted for war crimes.

    The issue of the clear democratic deficit within the EU has been discussed by your own journalists in both articles and comments and it is widely recognised that there is currently no democratic mandate for the steps being taken in the name of the people. (You may find http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/2890061-we-need-referendum-future-europe interesting) And let us not discuss the vexed subject of elected governments being replaced by EU place men, quite how the EU is contributing then to democracy is a little unclear.

    Let us all accept that the decision to give the award to the EU was highly political and it devalues the ethical value of the prize itself.

  • On 19 October 2012 at 14:40, by I want out Replying to: Well-deserved and timely: the EU receives the Nobel Peace Prize

    Giving the Peace Prize to Obama was at the least highly contentious and I suspect was more an expression of hope rather than a reward for actions he had achieved up to that time. As you say at that point he was the leader of a country in two wars, but wars he as an individual had not started.

    As we both accept that the US (and parts of the EU) are at war in Afghanistan and with Al Qaeda, then the assault in Abbottabad which resulted in the death of Bin Laden can easily be justified as a lawful act within that war.

    Many view the EU as little better than a dictatorship. Treaties and laws are passed and then total ignored when desired, court rulings are side stepped and punishments not enforced, referendums are required to be rerun, elected governments are replaced as necessary and corruption is rampant. In the end, as with a dictatorship, it matters not one jot what you sign or agree to, the result is what the government bureaucracy wants and the voice of the ordinary people is simply ignored. The fact that to date all that has been required to keep the levers of power safe is large amounts of CS gas and batons rather than murder and torture does not make it acceptable.

    As we discussed before only a third of the entire EU population see it positively while a third take the contrary view. (In the UK of course those figures are much more heavily weighted against the EU.) Describing Nigel Farage then as a clown when his party was the second most successful at the last EP elections displays a significant arrogance and reduces the quality of debate. It is sufficient to say that he is clearly giving a message that is popular in the UK and if continental media reports are to be believed in other countries as well. (Please don’t assume from that you can determine my political allegiance because you will be wrong.)

    I am just making the point that the Peace Prize has previously been awarded to individuals and organisations which have acted honourably and have not made the sort of decisions we saw with the EU in the Balkans which cost tens of thousands of lives. I would not describe Nelson Mandela / F W De Klerk, Dalai Lama, Arafat / Rabin / Perez, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Medecins Sans Frontieres or Shirin Ebabi as “libertarian junkies” but people who at real personal danger made a difference. To describe any of those people as guilty of “pompous and idealistic declarations of peace” is grossly unfair, especially as Rabin was murdered for his actions. The EU is simply an elitist political construct and I fail to see how it is in the same league as these people.

    I am not yelling with anger, just crying in disbelief and sadness.

    Cheers

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