Viewpoints: Experts comment on EU's Nobel award

 

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The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union for its work in promoting peace and stability in Europe. The award recognised the success of Franco-German reconciliation, the EU's eastward enlargement and peace efforts in the Balkans.

Here several experts on European affairs give their opinions on the award, which comes at a time of tension amid the eurozone debt crisis.

Start Quote

Heather Grabbe

The EU needs to get back to its core business - trade and promoting reconciliation”

End Quote
Heather Grabbe, Open Society Institute, Brussels

This is a big confidence boost for the EU at a moment when confidence is at a very low ebb because of the euro crisis. It's an important reminder that European integration is a peace project.

In the Balkans reconciliation is all under the EU's auspices - were it not for the EU they wouldn't be where they are today. The EU is the only body able to bring a whole range of peace-building measures to such a troubled region - the US couldn't do that.

France and Germany no longer go to war to resolve economic difficulties. In previous centuries they did, but now they negotiate through the European Council - much better.

Reconciliation is about exorcising the ghosts of history. It's easy to forget that now, we take peace for granted.

Nato is a different thing, it's a military alliance and doesn't do institution-building.

Heather Grabbe

  • Senior aide to EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn in 2004-9
  • Now director of Brussels office of Open Society Institute, writes widely on European affairs

There are still huge challenges - ensuring reconciliation and co-operation in the Balkans, having a much more constructive, integrated relationship with Turkey. In the EU's neighbourhood there are still major problems with democracy, incomplete transitions and economic nationalism.

The EU needs to get back to its core business - trade and promoting reconciliation. It's important to move out of this crisis mode.

Franco-German relations have had ups and downs - at the moment they're not as close as they used to be on economic policy, or the EU's future. But the populations are much closer now, there are many school exchanges and their trade is huge.

Start Quote

Carl Bildt

The progress made through integration in the past few decades is mind-bogglingly successful”

End Quote
Carl Bildt, Swedish Foreign Minister

I think the award was highly deserved and I think we should congratulate 500 million Europeans who, in different ways, have all benefited from the integration, the stability, peace and also the prosperity that the European Union has given.

We have not sorted out all of the problems, history has not come to its end, but great progress has been made.

I think it was particularly important that the Nobel committee mentioned enlargement. They mentioned Turkey where we see, most concretely, how the integration process is making its contribution to peace.

In Greece, Portugal and Spain, we should not forget the important role the EU played in stabilising democracy after the fall of the military dictatorships, as well as the hand it is now giving them with some significant economic problems.

The progress that has been made through integration in the past few decades is mind-bogglingly successful.

Carl Bildt

  • Swedish foreign minister and former high representative for Bosnia-Hercegovina
  • Special EU peace envoy to former Yugoslavia in 1995

I am in the north of Europe, looking out at the Baltic states. Just a couple of decades ago, a hundred million people in the eastern and central parts of Europe were living under dictatorship and in despair.

The contribution that European integration has made there to the rule of law, democracy and an element of prosperity is easily forgotten.

When we are dealing with the problems of today, I think we all agree that it would be far more difficult to deal with them without the integration, the co-operation, the leaders sitting around a table and trying to find common solutions.

Carl Bildt can be followed on Twitter

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Nigel Farage

Far from making the peoples of Europe love each other, the eurozone has divided Europe north to south ”

End Quote
Nigel Farage, UK Independence Party

I think that the whole thing is a nonsense.

If anyone is suggesting that a democratic, stable, post-war Germany would have invaded France again with the intention of smashing it to smithereens, I would suggest they are misreading history.

I do not believe there was any prospect of war happening in Western Europe after 1945. Arguably, projects that take different nation states, force them together under a new identity, a new flag and a new anthem, doing so without the consent of the peoples - such projects can actually create war, as Yugoslavia has shown us.

This prize baffles me because only recently we saw Angela Merkel going to Athens and there we saw swastikas being flown and Europe now being dominated by grief, violence and division.

Nigel Farage

  • MEP since 1999, and leader of the UK Independence Party
  • Holds eurosceptic views

The Cold War was about Nato and the nuclear deterrent. The fact the Russians did not invade us had absolutely nothing to do with the EU which, after all, was not fully created until 1992.

The EU today is about the destruction of nation-state democracy. Far from making the peoples of Europe love each other, the eurozone has divided Europe north to south and there are increasing enmities, violence in the streets.

We are headed, I think, in a very dangerous direction. Just look at the lessons of the Balkans. Look at this crackpot idea that we had in 1920 of abolishing individual nations and putting them together under a Yugoslav flag. It led to disaster and the EU, sadly, is making the same tragic mistake.

Nigel Farage can be followed on Twitter

Start Quote

Mats Persson

The irony is that the euro, because it was premature, risks driving some countries further apart”

End Quote
Mats Persson, Open Europe think tank

It's good for the EU to have a bit of encouragement. But at the same time some people would consider it a bit strange that the EU gets this award at a time when the euro crisis is causing social unrest in some parts of Europe.

The first people to be part of the big epic moments in European reconciliation were national politicans, not so much people in European institutions.

Of course the EU has done positive things, like enlargement, extending stability in post-communist eastern Europe.

With Franco-German relations you now have an institutionalised relationship between the two countries, designed to withstand crises and changes in governments - that's positive for Europe.

But Europe is more than the Franco-German axis. The irony is that the euro, because it was premature, driven by ideology, risks driving some countries further apart. The euro is now to some extent negating the positive impact the EU has had.

Mats Persson

  • Director of London-based Open Europe think tank
  • Born in Sweden, studied in US and worked for political consultancy in Washington

In Greece, Spain and Portugal the EU used to be seen as a counterweight to flaky domestic politics, but now the euro is associated with pain and outside interference, through the EU troika and European Commission.

The EU's External Action Service (EAS) is always restricted to the lowest common denominator in Europe - it can't cut across a specific country's foreign policy interests. It has to reconcile 27 different foreign policies, so it's not a swift actor.

The EAS has a mixed record - it has done some decent things, like the Iran sanctions, and in the Balkans. But in the Bosnia war the US had to step in, and in the Arab Spring the EU was initially on the wrong side.

Turkey will be a huge issue - it'll be a big problem if it turns east rather than towards Europe.

Start Quote

Charles Grant

Many Asians wish they had strong multilateral bodies like the EU”

End Quote
Charles Grant, Centre for European Reform

The EU merits the peace prize.

Its role in history is unique and positive, and much more important than the inability of the current bunch of leaders to resolve the eurozone's travails.

One only has to travel to Asia to understand the EU's value. In South and East Asia several territorial disputes could easily erupt into war.

Many Asians wish they had strong multilateral bodies like the EU, or Nato, that make war among their members inconceivable. If European states disagree they keep holding interminable summits until they find a compromise.

Charles Grant

  • Head of Centre for European Reform
  • Previously reported on business and EU affairs for The Economist

And we should not forget that the EU's eastward enlargement has spread peace, democracy and security across much of the continent.

True, the EU allowed the Balkan wars of the 1990s to fester for too long - but it learned the lesson and developed a peacekeeping capability that has done good work in the Balkans, parts of Africa and elsewhere.

Charles Grant can be followed on Twitter

Start Quote

Ulrike Guerot

It reminds people, in these difficult hours, about what is at stake”

End Quote
Ulrike Guerot, European Council on Foreign Relations

This is very positive. It reminds us what we forget during the discussion on the eurozone crisis - that this was a peace project and a political project. And this project has transformed Europe from authoritarian dictatorship into democratic, prosperous countries.

Germany and France had very different reasons - Germany to overcome its dreadful history and France for protection from Germany - but still, they overcame a century of war through reconciliation.

More than 60 years later we are still struggling with this project - but do not forget that there has not been 60 years of peace in Europe since 1410.

When Barack Obama won the prize soon after his election there were the same sort of doubts.

Ulrike Guerot

  • Senior policy fellow and representative for Germany at ECFR think tank
  • Expert on European integration

But there is a symbolic component to the award, and also a promotional and supportive component. It means a lot of attention and debate, and it reminds people, in these difficult hours, about what is at stake, and about the historic challenge we face.

At the middle of its deepest crisis, are we going to destroy a 60-year-old project that is about the rule of law and human rights?

Ulrike Guerot can be followed onTwitter

 

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  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 68.

    42 - An organisation that is bent on destroying national identities and sacrificing an unique cultural diversity for the sake of keeping up with the US, deserves no prize. An organisation that is responsible for breaking up countries, societies and bringing misery upon millions of people and causing social unrest, isn't worth a prize.

    Yep, thats westminster for you !

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 67.

    If the EU won, I hope the British government is grabbing our share of the prize money.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 66.

    Where is the EU, there is peace!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 65.

    @59. Do you not think a news article about a peace prize is rather a unsuitable venue for you to pick a fight?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 64.

    57. Egg On A Stilt "All the EU needs now is a dictator to emerge from the ashes of this recession/depression and history will be repeating itself. The peace prize is a little premature."

    What you say is true, although somewhat pessimistic and highly unlikely. The prize is awarded for things that happened in the past, not for what might happen in the future.

    I thought it was good news.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 63.

    @58 You can add the EU's desire to destroy the separate nation states of the EU and replace them with a single European Superstate the EUSSR, and at the same time create the equivalent of Homo Sovieticus: Homo Europeus.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 62.

    The EU deserves an award for the astonishing waste of money it achieves year on year.

    Ironically I see the issues with the Euro, especially Germanys position actually causing increasing tensions across Europe and not reducing them.

    As for majority voting - there are more "takers" than givers in Europe so of course its democratic - those who want get.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 61.

    agree.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 60.

    haha, so funny that the only voice disagreeing is from a UKIP party member. What else to expect from the BNP in blazers. If they don't like the way modern Europe and Britain as a part of it lives then why don't the UKIP, BNP and the rest of the guys from the EDL go and find some uninhabited rock somewhere where they can preach their bigoted views to each other. It is a shame to have to read it.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 59.

    Good to see all the "little Englanders" upset because the EU was awarded something that the UK could only dream about due to its slavish devotion to American war mongering.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 58.

    To credit the EU for the peace between Germany and France over the past 70 odd years is frankly ludicrous. Whilst the EU has benefited many of its citizens, it has been the economic prosperity and the growth of an educated and sophisticated populace in the countries of Europe which has underpinned peace, this would have occurred without formation of the EU and its increasing desire to control.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 57.

    All the EU needs now is a dictator to emerge from the ashes of this recession/depression and history will be repeating itself. The peace prize is a little premature.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 56.

    For those who keep droning on about wars outside Europe.

    "The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union for its work in promoting peace and stability in Europe"

    The operative part being 'peace and stability IN Europe'.

    If it's outside Europe it doesn't count. Hmm...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 55.

    Since Obama won the peace prize for doing... nothing, we have always known the Nobel Peace Prize - judged by a group of "intellectual" Norwegians - has been politically slanted. Lu Xiabao, the Chinese man who wrote a charter, followed, and now this... all the evidence you need that it's a farce.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 54.

    Clearly the so-called leaders of the EU are insecure enough to pull some strings and give their corrupt leaders a big fat pat on the back.

    Are we impressed - NO!! The EU is a by-word for CORRUPTION.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 53.

    This was done to death this morning.

    Why is here again?

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 52.

    The EU has been instrumental in underpinning peace in Europe after 2 tragic wars. After 3 wars between France and Germany in 70 years, their economies and the rest of Europe's are so intertwined war becomes inconceivable. NATO certainly protected Europe from external threats, but the EU (at least until now) has cemented internal peace. Too many people take its positive achievements for granted.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 51.

    Yes EU won.But Nobel Prize..What peace is brought to Asia and middle East by EU by sending their troops you hear every day about so many people are killed.Where is the peace in the world?Where is peace in Europe?There are more pieces than peace.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 50.

    Please people no EU bashing, honestly if people you do not like the EU then you should stop doing the following:

    Going on holiday there,

    Buying holiday / retirement homes there

    Building super clubs in the med, so we can go there, get of our faces, catch an STI and get into a fight

    Eating HP sauce, it’s made in Holland not the UK

    Using the E1-11

    Playing in EUFA etc......

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 49.

    "bor
    After WW1, the countries involved went to Paris and signed the Treaty of Versailles, creating the League of Nations. As we all now know, this was supposed to keep peace in Europe. Did it? Of course not. So after WW2, we decide all of a sudden for the same again."

    You clearly know absolutely nothing about the Treaty of Versaille, the LoN or the differences with the post WW2 settlement.

 

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