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.

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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 ”

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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

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

    Comment number 108.

    Who has done more to prevent another huge war in Europe or elsewhere?

    The bureaucrats in Brussels or our friends in the USA with the internet and the Hydrogen bomb ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    How on earth can an institution as venal, corrupt, self serving & stifling as the EU deserve this?

    Oh, of course; the Nobel prize is an institution dominated by "One World" socialists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Except medicine physics and chemistry noble prize award is more political and has no true value. Europe is heavily engaged in killing millions in different countries exactly like in the past thro' NATO. Selling weapons is a profitable business for many member states. Corruption and waste of taxpayers money.Many countries had US led secret prisons for interrogation and transfer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Nigel Farage is a lone voice of sanity at the EU - please youtube some of his speeches at the EU, if you want to see the un-ellected unaccountable elite millionaire bureaucrats get red faced and uncomfortable at the truth

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    vesselanaw I hate to have to say this but when did these strange delusional ideas start?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    You think we need the EU to prevent a war ?

    No that's not true is it. Think now, stop being silly, put brain in gear. . that's right. . Take brain out of school playground mode . . put into adult mode . . Stop repeating soundbites and think for self . .
    That's right ! Wasn't difficult !

    Germany realised people prefer cars to machine guns and tanks, that might have something to do with it

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    bor I think you're missing the letter "e" after your name, just thought you would like to correct it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    The EU and UN are steps towards a one world government (NWO)

    At the highest level of these organisations they are freemasons and worship satan / lucifer

    Their goal is to raise a world president who will embody the antichrist and be worshipped as the secular messiah after a global economic collapse or war which will excuse enforced implant of the RFID chip in all for absolute control

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    ' The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union '

    But not that good Norway has intentions of joining any time soon.

  • Comment number 99.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Europe won a "Peace" prize? Was that a hollow laugh I just heard?


    Germany (n°3)
    France (n°4)
    Britain (n°5)
    Italy (n°7)
    Sweden (n°9)
    Spain (n°12)

    The top European nations have been heavily involved in the following wars in recent decades :

    The Falklands

    I'd love to know what the Nobel's definition of "Peace" is...

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    vesselanaw Please if your going to state facts about a dictatorship and the effects on social unrest please name the main culprit in the world, the land of the not so free, the USA. More wars, more invasions, more regime change, more theft of resources, the ultimate merchants of death and destruction, supported of course by the spineless UK.

  • Comment number 96.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    firemensaction I wouldn't go on too much about Greece. The greek government is being run by Goldman Sachs for Goldman Sachs, time that Goldman Sachs was put on the most wanted criminal list together with the rest of the parasitic banks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    "Please stop interviewing idiots like ... just so you can have an opposing viewpoint."
    exactly)) are there "experts" only in Europe?)) I thought, the Nobel award has smth to do with the whole World)) quite a lot of opposing viewpoints))

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    The EU is an unaccountable dictatorship of un-ellected bureaucrats who have done what Hitler failed to do, create a european superstate.

    Instead of rule with guns they legislate to control the masses and impose their laws through their myriad bodies like ECHR

    EU continues to wage and support covert wars on other nations like Libya, Syria, Iran, it is a thug dictatorship after self interest

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Proves that a Nobel Prize can be had for an ignoble price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Mike Corruption! If you want to see real corruption as almost an art form try looking at the city of London and the International Banking cartel, a good start would be the Fed followed by the BOE, both complicit in printing dodgy money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    85.Fred Schuhmacher

    ...& nothing to do with sovereign deficits, or trade imbalances between N & S Europe of course? Yeah right. Better keep working Fred, Greece needs yr money. You do realise in any currency union, transfers have to go from rich to poor areas, right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The farce of this award reminds me when US secretary of state Henry Kissinger won it in 1973. Kissinger who oversaw the military coup in Chile. The award of the peace prize to the EU is overtly political

    As Bob Crow, Chair of No2EU said, "to award the peace prize to an organisation behaving like colonial overlords in Greece, Spain and Portugal and elsewhere was ludicrous and deeply cynical."


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