EU Nobel peace prize: No minor achievement

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) receives flowers from Norway's Ambassador to the EU, Atle Leikvoll, in Brussels, 12 October EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) received flowers from Norway's Ambassador to the EU, Atle Leikvoll

Europe's officials could scarcely believe their good fortune today. Unexpectedly, the EU was given the Nobel Peace Prize. The citation praised the EU for "over six decades" contributing to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.

Europe's leaders fell upon this rare piece of good news with an almost desperate embrace. If there is a core justification for the European project, it is to make war impossible again on the continent. That has been the EU's outstanding achievement. When under attack, Europe's leaders fall back upon 60 years of peace in Europe. It is no minor achievement.

Secondly, after and just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the EU acted as a beacon for democracy, for human rights and a civil society. Many Eastern European countries rejected communism because they had before them a clear example of an alternative. Young people wanted to be part of a normal European society. Eastern Europe today is testimony to the spread of democracy.

It is also true that the existence of the EU enabled countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece to make the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Even today, in the midst of hardship and austerity, there is a deep attachment to belonging to Europe. That is the legacy of history.

But the Nobel committee's decision will puzzle many. Despite the EU's successes, it failed in the Balkans. It lacked the will and determination to intervene and save lives. The massacre at Srebrenica happened in Europe's backyard.

And the prize comes at a moment of violence and tension on the streets of many European capitals as a young generation endures years of hardship and high unemployment. For them the European dream has not delivered.

It should not be forgotten that the committee in Oslo awarded US President Barack Obama the peace prize when he had few achievements to his name. It was a prize offered more in hope.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the prize was an inspiration. She said it was a "wonderful decision" and said it would inspire her personally to press ahead with closer integration.

That, of course, raises an intriguing question. Will "ever closer union" deliver more democracy and peace or will it sow tension and division?

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Austrian Radio website reports comments by Norwegian politician about a putsch in the Noberl committeee.

    Was this similar to the putsch that led to the imposition of the Lisbon Treaty?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I'm sure they have won the Piece Prize.
    They gave a couple of pieces of the EU to Goldman Sachs, Greece and Italy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Rumpy Pumpy and his friends want us to forget they've blown the budget.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    How little we learn from history.
    Little more than 2 generations after the war to end all wars those countries who were so grateful at the time for our resistance to enforced ideology now take sides against us once again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    74 David

    We already see neo-Nazis in the Greek partliament & seething ghettos in France

    I see the Ku Klux Klan still thrives in your country and people still live in huts.

    Seeing how you continue to invade other people's countries on the pretext of bringing 'democracy' rather than a power game to keep your superpower status intact, I don't think you can criticise others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    72, the similarity is that both countries had their sovereignty suspended, launching the people to the far right as they felt unable to decide their own future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    "Even today, in the midst of hardship and austerity, there is a deep attachment to belonging to Europe."

    EUp: But the "EU" is not Europe. You can belong to Euroep when the "EU-Dictatorship is long gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Its a bit strange, a man giving another man flowers.
    Wait a minute, its ok, ones from the council of europe, the other from the eu. They are completely different, or so I am constantly reminded on HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Gut wrenching and enough to make me vomit. This has to be the sickest joke ever perpetrated on the peoples of Europe. I looked at the Pigs, I looked at the humans and I look at Barosso with a bunch of flowers - how touching. I couldn't see the difference. R.I.P Eric Arthur Blair

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    The committee said the EU had helped to transform Europe "from a continent of war to a continent of peace"

    EUp: What a load of rubbish! Decades of waste, lies, manipulation, corruption, dictatorship with possibly worse to come!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    76, Oh and USA's foundation was not "cemented by rivers of blood"? Remember the First Nations? Some estimate 20 million were exterminated over a couple of centuries, in the name of Manifest Destiny.Not to mention the Civil War,no trifling matter.FYI, I am taking a very nuts&bolts view here of EU, not "idealism". EU Works. All nations have a BloodyHistory,alas.That is kind of the point.Changing it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    @57 Maria

    I appreciate your idealism about the Europe's wellfare, but the foundation has been cemented by rivers of blood. A relativism is bellow the Europe's level, and Nobel's price for peace is certainly insufficient to stimulate self-criticism, if not ironic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Those who think the Nobel Prize is ridiculous are invited to integrate their own comitee, select candidates... and provide the required funds. Otherwise, give peace a chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    The EU prides itself on maintaining peace, although the US military umbrella and NATO really did this.

    The EU's political class simply took advmnatage of the US umbrella and built a fantasy political union & a fantasy currency - the collapse of which will likely lead to severe, post-Yugoslav-style violence. We already see neo-Nazis in the Greek partliament & seething ghettos in France.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The Nobel prize shouldn't be about politics. It was given to Obama for not being G Bush, despite Obama deploying more drones, keeping Guantanamo going as well as the wars.
    NATO supplied the shield under which peace could flourish, in 1945 Europe wasn't strong enough to fight Russia, we owe a great debt to America, who saved us from Fascism and Communism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    43 DM

    "happening in Greece because the country is humiliated by the EU/ IMF similarly the way Germany reacted in the 30s"

    You forget the slight difference here that Germany in the 30s was being bled dry by WW1 reparation demands, while the Greece of today is showered with billions of euros supplied by its hard working neighbours in the north who are then being insulted for their pains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.


    "This completely makes a mockery of the Nobel prize."

    -- you are mocking yourself even more !

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Brits and Greeks appear to be crying their hearts out.

    -- Now the EU is responsible for Greek Nazism --on BBC HYS --( stated by a Greek)

    Nato is responsible for peace in Europe -- by dragging European countries into wars somewhere else ?

    --and there are even complaints (from Nato members) that Germany is not ´militaristic enough´

    -- Kill for peace?

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    We can agree that EU is not the most ridiculous recipient of what is indeed a ridiculous prize

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    @59 margaret

    Nobel is deserved, probably, but hardly as the best in the history of Nobels' peacemakers. The Nobel price for peace looks again to be political. Just one stimulus for the EU, nothing trully for the piece.


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