EU wins Nobel Peace Prize
Anna Sonny, 22 October 2012
By Anna Sonny
On Thursday 11th October the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its rather controversial decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. The prize, first awarded in 1901, is one of the most prestigious in the world and is presented to individuals or organisations that have carried out extensive work to promote peace and fraternity between nations.
The EU and its predecessor organisation, the European Economic Community, were established on the premise that European countries locked into ever closer political and economic union would never go to war with each other again. But the prize, awarded to the EU due to six decades of contributions ‘to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe’, came as a surprise to many, especially given the current climate. Europe is hardly a sea of calm; austerity—as the EU’s weapon of choice against a raging recession—has caused scenes of violent protest and conflict in capitals across the continent. To claim a sweeping victory of peace for the past sixty years in Europe also fails to recognise the devastating conflict in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Furthermore, NATO has also played a vital role in keeping the peace in Europe over the past few decades.
Speaking in Oslo, Thorbjørn Jagland, head of the Nobel Committee, said: ‘The main message is that we need to keep in mind what we have achieved on this continent, and not let the continent go into disintegration again.’ He also added that the collapse of the EU could lead to a resurgence of the ‘extremism and nationalism’ that has led to so many ‘awful wars’. This warning seems to highlight the tactical nature of the prize, which appears to be a deliberate decision to focus on the benefits and the achievements of the EU at a time when rumours about a potential break-up of the Eurozone are rife.
Although the Nobel Committee does not publish a full list of nominations, those with nomination rights are permitted to reveal their picks. Those nominated this year include Bradley Manning, dubbed the ‘Wikileaks whistleblower’, Bill Clinton, and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
While the prize was celebrated by European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, who called the prize a ‘great honour’, Prime Minister David Cameron neglected to comment on the decision to give the prize to the EU.
Speaking at a post EU summit conference, David Cameron proposed that a child from each member state should collect the prize at the ceremony in Oslo in December, rather than senior commission officials. ‘I thought that would be something they would always remember and a great symbol of Europe’s future. I personally won’t be going but I am sure there will be enough people to collect the prize.’ While the Prime Minister has not openly voiced, as many Eurosceptics have, his opinion on the matter, his proposal to honour citizens rather than the bureaucrats of the EU and his snubbing of the invitation to the ceremony certainly imply that he does not share the joy expressed by the other European leaders at the decision to award the prize to the EU.