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.

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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.

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Carl Bildt

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

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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 ”

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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

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Mats Persson

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

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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.

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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

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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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  • Comment number 88.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    No war in 60+ years in europe is probably a record, the last war bankrupted this country and killed millions of people. So yes i think the prize is deserved. All those people who want us to turn our back on europe would do well to rememeber that every time we have its ended up with a war we end up in fighting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Germany politicians have given up trying to take over Europe by force, now they are doing it by economic means.

    Greece, Portugul, Spain and Italy don't want to have to spend the next 2 or 3 generations in poverty.
    German nationals don't like the way that their wealth is being used to bail out other nations.
    It will all end in tears eventually..

  • Comment number 85.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I am English, and ashamed of it due slavish following of the US by our inept government. I certainily do not need a Dr nor do I need someone to be nice to me. The "Little Englanders" should try concentrating on both truth and facts, something they don't particularly feel comfortable with when it offends their blinkered view of the world. Most anti EU comments are based on ignorance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    so Norway has given this prize to a union they didn't want to join!, one that's bankrupted it's member states by allowing massive bank fraud and now looks like it's ready to fall apart due to the coruption it fostered, don't they TV in Norway for God sake!?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    peter toone
    A-hem, The EU are the dregs of the barrel, and to promote them the peace prize makes me violently sick.

    What makes me sick are people supporting the biggest threat to world peace the USA. The UK continues to crawl behind the US supporting its illegal wars, regime change & theft of countries resources. That's what you get when you put money, power & influence before human life

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Was in Greece a couple of weeks ago. Anti German graffiti all over, with use of the word Nazi rather than German. Greeks we spoke to were eager to tell us how the Germans had yet to pay war reparations. Have encountered anti-German feeling in the Netherlands and France too. Getting out and speaking to people rather than listening to politicians gives a truer flavour of how real people feel.

  • Comment number 80.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    There have been wars in the Balkans since the Neolithic.

    Did the EU cause them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    49 Minutes ago

    I think Cameron should have won a Nobel prize for all he's done so far. He hasn't been here long, but he has already done an awful lot.

    I don't think there is a Nobel prize for corruption, banking fraud and theft?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Nice to see the EU get this award at a time where there is growing unrest on the streets in Southern Europe and which is likely to get worse. So while I genuinely believe the EU HAS played a major part in a peaceful(ish) Europe since WWII, it is at risk that it maybe starting to unravel

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    What a joke.

    I have long believed that the EU would eventually result in a EU civil war with the bureaucracy, France & Germany seeking to subjugate recalcitrant nations.

    We are not far off that now

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    A-hem, The EU are the dregs of the barrel, and to promote them the peace prize makes me violently sick, as they have destroyed so many lives in Europe and to burden so much stress related tension amonst the EU, to be honest, Norway this time got it wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    It's on par with the Peace Prize going to Obama.
    A Pakistani girl gets shot for standing up to the Talibans, for women's right to go to school. She would have been a good choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Soon after the announcement, Barroso, Van Rompuy and Martin Schulz (president of the European Parliament) engaged in a tetchy squabble as to which of them should receive it.
    Says it all really.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    65. jim272
    "@59. Do you not think a news article about a peace prize is rather a unsuitable venue for you to pick a fight?"

    If the good Doctor is English he's probably joking, if he's not, he's probably serious. Either way, he needs to see a doctor.

    It's remarkable how some people bare their inner-self on a public forum. The good Dr. probably just wants someone to be nice to him. :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    This ranks in absurdity with giving Bliar the Congresssional medal for
    something or another--oh yes--going into an illegal war.
    Obama was given the Peace prize for something he MIGHT do-?!?!?!?!

    Plainly the Nobel commitee have been drinking far too much Norwegian schnaps,or whatever they drink up there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I'm disappointed at the way the Peace Prize has moved towards rewarding large big profile people and organizations (Barack Obama, Al Gore, The EU).

    I miss the days when the Peace Prize honored brave individuals (Rigoberta Menchu, Betty Williams & Mairead Maguire, Aung San Suu Kyi, etc) who risk their lives for peace.


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