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EU and the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize

October 18, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize
On the 12th October 2012, the European Union was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize by an esteemed committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament.

The procedures were laid out in Alfred Nobel’s will in 1895 where he bequeathed the award would be given “..to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

It is awarded annually and has frequently caused controversy. This year’s award has been no different. The citation reads:

“European Union for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” which is true however as Europe is gripped in the deepest recession in its history and the very existence of the monetary union is being tested daily, the timing is not good.

Thomas Kirchner in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung 2012 on hearing the news wrote

” a quarrelling bunch of more or less bankrupt states”, reflecting the real danger of the entire European project unravelling.

So it is within this context that the award was won with faith and hope in both the historic coming together of nations, and the optimistic and peaceful future being posited.

Although a contentious decision, particularly given some of the other potential candidates, it’s the right decision for the following reason.

The Middle East

At this point in world history we stand at the brink of a potential nuclear conflagration that could be sparked off in the Middle and spread throughout the globe. Such a danger is near and present. There is considerable fear that Arab spring uprisings have destabilised the region with unpredictable and unfriendly powers coming to the fore. Israel in particular is vulnerable as it is surrounded on all sides by hostile countries that given half the chance would see it wiped off the map.

The US war on terror has meant that those same countries have been invaded or destabilised (using local terror organisations), and had their regimes changed to western friendly ones in the hope that new democratic and peace loving nations can be built. Unfortunately, they are far from peaceful with civil war in Syria, fighting in Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia and annexation in Palestine and Israel. Democracy is struggling to gain a foothold in these mostly Muslim countries and the whole region is a tinderbox that could catch fire, particularly if a belligerent Israel decides to unilaterally “defend” itself pre-emptively.

In addition, the US and EU have been engaged in nation building in Afghanistan for 10 years  and are plagued by internal fighting with militant Muslim group the Taliban. The terror is spreading to Pakistan and India to the extent that the US is using unmanned drone aircraft to kill militants by remote control.

The nation building projects of the last 10 years can all be said to have been failing and the western imported democracy must be viewed with considerable scepticism, particularly in the oil rich Saudi peninsula, where the black gold is now being controlled by western interests. Clearly, this is not fraternity between nations or the reduction of standing armies.

The European Union

The history of the EU is described in the ten steps below:

1. On 9 May 1950, the Schuman Declaration proposed the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which became reality with the Treaty of Paris of 18 April 1951. This put in place a common market in coal and steel between the six founding countries (Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The aim, in the aftermath of World War Two, was to secure peace between Europe’s victorious and vanquished nations and bring them together as equals, cooperating within shared institutions.

2. The Six then decided, on 25 March 1957 with the Treaty of Rome, to build a European Economic Community (EEC) based on a wider common market covering a whole range of goods and services. Customs duties between the six countries were completely abolished on 1 July 1968 and common policies, notably on trade and agriculture, were also put in place during the 1960s.

3. So successful was this venture that Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom decided to join the Community. This first enlargement, from six to nine members, took place in 1973. At the same time, new social and environmental policies were implemented, and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was established in 1975.

4. June 1979 saw a decisive step forward for the European Community, with the first elections to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage. These elections are held every five years.

5. In 1981, Greece joined the Community, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986. This strengthened the Community’s presence in southern Europe and made it all the more urgent to expand its regional aid programmes.

6. The worldwide economic recession in the early 1980s brought with it a wave of ‘euro-pessimism’. However, hope sprang anew in 1985 when the European Commission, under its President Jacques Delors, published a White Paper setting out a timetable for completing the European single market by 1 January 1993. This ambitious goal was enshrined in the Single European Act, which was signed in February 1986 and came into force on 1 July 1987.

7. The political shape of Europe was dramatically changed when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. This led to the unification of Germany in October 1990 and the coming of democracy to the countries of central and eastern Europe as they broke away from Soviet control. The Soviet Union itself ceased to exist in December 1991. At the same time, the member states were negotiating the new Treaty on European Union, which was adopted by the European Council, composed of presidents and/or prime ministers, at Maastricht in December 1991. The Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993. By adding areas of intergovernmental cooperation to existing integrated Community structures, the Treaty created the European Union (EU).

8. This new European dynamism and the continent’s changing geopolitical situation led three more countries — Austria, Finland and Sweden — to join the EU on 1 January 1995.

9. By then, the EU was on course for its most spectacular achievement yet, creating a single currency. The euro was introduced for financial (non-cash) transactions in 1999, while notes and coins were issued three years later in the 12 countries of the euro area (also commonly referred to as the euro zone). The euro is now a major world currency for payments and reserves alongside the US dollar.

10. Scarcely had the European Union grown to 15 members when preparations began for a new enlargement on an unprecedented scale . In the mid-1990s, the former Soviet-bloc countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia), the three Baltic states that had been part of the Soviet Union (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), one of the republics of former Yugoslavia (Slovenia) and two Mediterranean countries (Cyprus and Malta) began knocking at the EU’s door.

The EU welcomed this chance to help stabilise the European continent and to extend the benefits of European integration to these young democracies. Negotiations on future membership opened in December 1997. The EU enlargement to 25 countries took place on 1 May 2004 when 10 of the 12 candidates joined. Bulgaria and Romania followed on 1 January 2007.

Why the EU won The Nobel Peace Prize

[Published statement Oslo, 12 October 2012]

In the inter-war years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made several awards to persons who were seeking reconciliation between Germanyand France. Since 1945, that reconciliation has become a reality. The dreadful suffering in World War II demonstrated the need for a new Europe. Over a seventy-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars. Today war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners.In the 1980s, Greece, Spain and Portugal joined the EU. The introduction of democracy was a condition for their membership. The fall of the Berlin Wall made EU membership possible for several Central and Eastern European countries, thereby opening a new era in European history. The division between East and West has to a large extent been brought to an end; democracy has been strengthened; many ethnically-based national conflicts have been settled.

The admission of Croatia as a member next year, the opening of membership negotiations with Montenegro, and the granting of candidate status to Serbia all strengthen the process of reconciliation in the Balkans. In the past decade, the possibility of EU membership for Turkey has also advanced democracy and human rights in that country.

The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights. The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.

The work of the EU represents “fraternity between nations”, and amounts to a form of the “peace congresses” to which Alfred Nobel refers as criteria for the Peace Prize in his 1895 will.

In a nutshell, the EU won the prize because its free markets and integrated currency made all member states more prosperous. By selling to each other and having common agricultural policies, trade agreements, fishing agreements and so on; and by allowing free movement between states and having unified principles of law, the EU has created a model for integrated nations.

The EU adheres to high standards of democracy and equality, and it enjoys culture, sport, language, art and business together within an integrated trans-national model. It has achieved this without war, violence, bombs or regime change. Currently there is a queue to join the EU and it is a model for these times.

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