EU's Nobel Peace Prize: Europe's press has mixed response

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy described the award as "a tremendous honour"

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European papers express surprise, some unease but also a sense of pride after the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Timely"

Most German newspapers lead on the award in Saturday's print editions.

"27 countries, 23 languages, 67 years of peace: we may all be a little bit proud of that," says the best-selling Bild newspaper on its front page.

Earlier, Bild expressed a sense of pride in its website banner headline "We are the Nobel Peace Prize", echoing its exclamation "We are the Pope" after Germany's Cardinal Ratzinger became the leader of the Catholic Church in 2005.

However, the paper also noted "huge astonishment at this decision".

A commentary by Guenther Nonnenmacher in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says the EU's constant challenge is to create as much unity as possible without ironing out the differences which "make for Europe's charm and strength".

"The Nobel Peace Prize should encourage Europeans to make this effort and to continue to work on their joint project," he says.

Elsewhere, an editorial in Spain's El Pais agrees that the prize represents "moral support and encouragement to overcome individual nations' reservations, which impede decisive progress" towards greater integration, including "naturally, political union".

La Libre Belgique feels that the award is "timely". By awarding it to the EU, "the Nobel committee wanted to remind people that the European project... has had a civilising effect, making a large contribution to turning ancient enemies into partners and spreading democracy and human rights", an editorial by Oliver le Bussy says.

'Strange'

Nik Afansjew in Germany's Der Tagesspiegel says that prizes should be earned before they are handed out and points out that over the last four years the EU has been "synonymous with crisis".

But he adds that the prize can also be seen as "an exhortation not to let this huge project of genius which is the European Union go to the dogs simply because of national selfishness and short-sightedness".

"The Nobel prize committee has taken an anti-cyclical decision which is initially difficult to understand and which feels strange. But it was a good decision," he concludes.

On a more sceptical note, Thomas Kirchner in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung describes the EU as a "quarrelling bunch of more or less bankrupt states" and says the Nobel committee "must be careful if it wants its decisions to be taken seriously for much longer".

France's Liberation says the committee showed "a hell of a nerve" by awarding the prize to "a very sick patient", but the paper agrees to give the EU the benefit of the doubt and to bet on its "resilience".

A commentary by Petr Pesek in the Czech paper Lidove noviny reflects the mixed bag of emotions expressed by many by saying: "Once the initial shock and surprise have subsided, you have to admit that it is a logical decision. Which of course doesn't necessarily mean that it is also a correct one."

'Divided union'

"But who will go to Oslo for the EU to receive the Nobel Peace Prize?" asks France's Le Monde in a website headline.

"As trivial as it may seem, the question raises that of the embodiment of an entity which certainly has its own legal existence but whose institutional stops and starts and lack of democratic representation are regularly criticised," the article by Benoit Vitkine says.

Belgium's De Standaard asks the same question and suggests that "with the euro crisis creating tensions between different EU countries", an "anonymous EU citizen" might be most suitable.

Italy's La Stampa says the confusion over who is to go to Oslo means that "on this occasion too, Europe has shown that it is a divided union".

Most critical of all were the British papers. The consistently Eurosceptic Daily Telegraph said: "To take this decision seriously would be to give the Nobel committee a status that, many would argue, it no longer deserves. Indeed the greatest service it has done is not to diplomacy, but to comedy."

It acknowledges the EU's role in pulling Europe together after 1945, but says it is now a danger to peace.

"EU have got to be joking!" was a headline in The Sun, while even the more pro-European Independent ran the news on its front page alongside a picture of rioting on the streets of Athens with a quote from the Nobel committee: "A unique project that replaced war with peace".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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