The Espace Leopold, the seat of the European Parliament (Main Chamber), Brussels

A Guidepost Report

The European Union is the latest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace awarded in December 2012. In the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,

The union and its forerunners [notably the embryonic European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community] have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. The work of the EU represents ‘fraternity between nations’, and amounts to a form of the ‘peace congresses’ to which Alfred Noble refers as criteria for the Peace Prize in his 1895 will.

Really, more than “peace congresses” and “fraternity”, the EU is the outcome of geopolitical pragmatism enforced on the European countries whose compulsive warmongering seemed to have been inbred. What happened was that after World War II that warmongering came effectively to an end when the supranational Coal and Steel Community, which would eventually spill over to the European Union, was founded. The US and Soviet superpowers had enough on their plates to have to contend as well with the countries in their respective spheres of influence going to war against one another during the Cold War. They therefore did not tolerate it.

To the surprise of the EU member-states, they discovered that they were actually capable of solidarity.

And now that the union is being mortally threatened by the monumental economic and financial crisis, the Nobel Committee decided it is worth all the help it could get and awarded it the Peace Prize. “The EU,” said the Committee, “is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights. The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”

It was a beautiful gesture on the part of the Norwegian Nobel Committee – which is not to imply that the millions of Greeks, Irish and Spanish, suffering from untold hardships and even tragedy, have no legitimate grievances against unbending current EU (austerity) policies.

Some in the Eurozone periphery have said outright that the award is a joke. But a broader and longer-ranging perspective might help mitigate the understandable disaffection and, in time, heal the wound. If so, some thanks are due the Nobel Peace Prize.

It is somewhat ironic that the Norwegian Nobel Committee has selected the EU as the recipient of the encouraging Peace Prize; Norway is not a member-state of the EU. However, Alfred Nobel was from Sweden and his country is an EU member. Moreover, the Nobel Award (for achievements in physics, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace) is administered by the Nobel Foundation headquartered in Stockholm.


Featured image/Alina Zienowicz Ala Z, CC BY-SA3.o via Wikimedia Commons