Nobel Peace Prize: A controversial yet deserved prize

The presidents of the EU Council, Commission and Parliament Herman Van Rompuy, José Manuel Durao Barroso and  Martin Schulz recieving the  Nobel Peace Prize at the Oslo City Hall, on 10 December 2012
The presidents of the EU Council, Commission and Parliament Herman Van Rompuy, José Manuel Durao Barroso and Martin Schulz recieving the Nobel Peace Prize at the Oslo City Hall, on 10 December 2012
10 December 2012 – Presseurop Gazeta Wyborcza, Trouw, Diário de Notícias & 2 others

On December 10, as the Nobel Peace Prize was officially handed over to the EU, the European press celebrates both gratitude for what the Union has already achieved and encouragement for the future, while acknowledging that there are good reasons for a dose of scepticism.

“Viva boring eurocrats,” headlinesGazeta Wyborcza stressing that “the Union is the most effective peace making machine in history,” adding –

Logo – Gazeta Wyborcza, Warsaw

For nearly 70 years, member states have not experienced the nightmare of war. Peace has no flavour, colour or scent. It is like air. I don’t know anybody who feels happy just because he breathes. But it is hard to imagine that some day someone would deny us access to air. The EU deserves the Nobel Prize just for the fact, that such a thought doesn’t even cross our minds.

“Europe has become something to be in favour or against,” bemoan two academics in Dutch daily Trouw, because “the political debate has remained largely indoors.” The EU should give the European citizens a real voice if the Nobel prize is to remain justified, says the paper, adding –

Logo – Trouw, Amsterdam

The Nobel Peace Prize to the EU says something particularly about the past, and little about the future of the EU. Citizens should be given a real choice about what kind of Europe they want. A current vote for the European Parliament is not a choice for the colour of the government, a specific policy track or a specific leader. Only when the composition of the Commission is linked to the colour of the Parliament, will the citizen’s voice be a voice for the direction of the EU, enabling broad EU-debates among citizens. In this way, the EU will live up to its promise of the Nobel prize not only in the past, but also in the future.

"Some have criticised the award given to the European Union”, says theDiário de Notícias’ editorial. “And indeed it seems odd given that the honour has traditionally fallen on figures such as Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela, and, in other cases, institutions like the Red Cross and UNICEF.” However, the Lisbon Daily adds —

Logo – Diário de Notícias, Lisbon

If we look at the peaceful area that Western Europe has become since the beginning of the European project, then maybe the choice of Norwegian committee can be understood. After all, by bringing France and Germany together at the foundation of the European Economic Community it was assured that the misunderstandings that led to past world wars would become much harder to repeat. Therefore, this award should be seen as a complement to the past and an incentive to the progression of the European project. Today's ceremony in Oslo coincides with a political crisis in Italy. With so many problems in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and also in Spain, this was not what the EU needed. But it is also proof that the crisis is everyone's problem. And that Europe will only have a future if it can offer a unified response.

”The criticism of the Norwegian Nobel Committee's choice of this year's Peace Prize winner has been tough and widespread,” writes Sydsvenksan. The reason, adds the Malmö daily, is that —

Logo – Sydsvenskan, Malmö

The decision is controversial. And that´s alright. Criticism and opposition is essential to a union that works for peace, democracy and freedom and where 27 member states are involved. In yesterday's Dagens Nyheter, Stefan Jonsson and Peo Hansen presented a less flattering view of the creation of the European Union. The driving force of Germany and France to form the basis of the EEC is said to have come from the common interest of exploiting Africa – in a contemporary colonial style. The political element and historical facts underlying the authors' analysis of the Union's creation should not be diminished. But are Hansen and Jonsson right in their claim that the EEC was not founded as a peace project? That the idea of a peace project is in fact a myth? The fact that their story will give a nuanced picture of the EU's history should be welcomed. No country and no intergovernmental association has come about just to make the world a better place, entirely without self-interest. To investigate one´s history is a sound thing. The EU is not a union finished once and for all. It is an ongoing process. And its importance as a peace project cannot be underestimated.

However, The Daily Telegraph’s editorial lambasts the award as “preposterous”, pointing to the EU’s lack of action during the Balkans conflict and inter-state tensions triggered by the euro crisis, saying –

Logo – The Daily Telegraph, London

But all of this will be lost on the EU’s panjandrums as they pick up their prize: to them, the award will be no more than the European project deserves. Once again, the chasm between the ruling elite in Brussels and the EU’s 500 million citizens will be on display.