Right Idea, Wrong Recipient: How the Nobel Peace Prize Missed Its Mark

A Commentary by

It is tough to find fault with handing the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. But that is exactly the problem -- it shows a lack of imagination. It would have been more courageous to honor somebody who embodies what current EU leaders lack. Like Jacques Delors.

The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Zoom
NASA

The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Has the European Union contributed to the fact that Europe has enjoyed more than six decades of peace? Has it earned the Nobel Peace Prize as a consequence? Of course it has! But the problem lies in just how clear the answers to those questions are. Choosing the EU as the recipient is completely without risk. Apart from a few misguided figures from the far right or left, nobody will offer serious misgivings.

Even the political signal the award sends is rather trite. In the depths of the common currency crisis, the Norwegian Nobel Committee's Friday announcement makes clear, it is important to remember what the EU stands for. Europe, in other words, doesn't just stand for unwieldy debt loads and shared liability for that debt, but is rather a community of nations that, after centuries of war, finally realized that more binds them than divides them. Europeans didn't just join together for agrarian subsidies and a leg up on exports -- and we now have to be careful that the ongoing rhetoric about the broke Greeks and the selfish Germans don't destroy that which was built over the course of 60 years.

That is the message that can be read between the lines of the Friday announcement from Oslo. And no reasonable person will have serious objections.

Photo Gallery

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Photo Gallery: EU Leaders React to the Nobel Peace Prize
At the same time, however, the truth of the European Union also includes that fact that much is currently going wrong within the bloc. And blame for that can be laid at the doors of EU leaders, particularly those in Germany and France. They are no longer fighting for European unity as uncompromisingly as they did 20 years ago.

Important European Questions

The European Commission shares much of the blame. Under current Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, it has allowed itself to be pushed to the perimeter. While the Commission focuses its energies on banning conventional light bulbs and other bureaucratic mini-projects, the most important European questions are being decided in backrooms deep within ministries in Paris, Berlin and even Athens. Or in informal Euro Group meetings. Or in the European Central Bank's Frankfurt skyscraper.

The result is that it has become unclear who actually is leading the EU. Indeed, the discussion as to who will be allowed to accept the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10 in Oslo will be an interesting one. Barroso, the great dithering tactician? Herman Van Rompuy, the largely unknown president of the European Council? Or perhaps the president of Cyprus? His name (Dimitris Christofias) is known to but a few, but Cyprus currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union -- a body not to be confused with the European Council.

Once those three names are thrown into the ring, a fourth is sure to follow. Martin Schulz is president of the European Parliament, and has never been one to shy away from center stage.

Something Isn't Quite Right

It is, of course, the institution which has been chosen as the winner of the Peace Prize and not a specific individual. But the fact that none of the preceding quartet seem to be quite the right choice for receiving the prize shows that something is wrong with the EU.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee's best choices have always resulted in the prize being bestowed on individuals who devoted their lives to the struggle for peace and freedom -- and, by extension, for a great idea, a deserving institution or a courageous movement. This year too, the opportunity was there to honor the European Union while at the same time making it clear that the EU of Barroso and Merkel is far away from the EU's founding ideals.

Why, then, didn't the committee choose to give the prize to Jacques Delors? The French Socialist was president of the EC/EU Commission from 1985 to 1994 and is widely considered to be the most determined living fighter for European unity. Many see his term in office as coinciding with the best phase the EU has yet enjoyed. In contrast to Barroso, he stood for drive and decisiveness. He didn't allow himself to be marginalized by member-state leaders, rather he led them toward integration. Even today, the 87-year-old is still active in the so-called Spinelli Group, which aims to make Europe more democratic and less defined by national interests by granting European Parliament a more central role.

The decision on Friday to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union was the correct one. Giving it to Delors, however, would have been both correct and courageous.

Former European Community President Jacques Delors in 1993. Zoom
REUTERS

Former European Community President Jacques Delors in 1993.

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1. w
mae 10/12/2012
"Has the European Union contributed to the fact that Europe has enjoyed more than six decades of peace? Of course it has!" Really? The rest of the world saw a war raging on European soil in the Balkans during the 1990's complete with all the European traditions of ethnic cleansing and genocide-Sebrenica. It is hilarious how European journalists blindly parrot the lies of their political elites about Europe enjoying 6 decades of peace. And it is also hilarious how European journalists collude and aid the lies of Europe's poltical elites with this revionist history by erasing the Balkans war and by completely erasing Nato and the US role in keeping the peace in Europe. Ever since US troops entered western Europe in 1945 and STAYED, that part of Europe has enjoyed its greatest period of peace. The EU came much later after peace and stability had been established in Europe by the US presence through Nato which allowed the EU to flourish. It was American power that finally put an end to the Balkan slaughter with the US Dayton peace accords which still holds the peace in the Balkans today. The EU was powerless when the Balkans erupted in ethnic cleansing and genocide-Sebrenica. Give credit where credit is due - to the USA for keeping the peace in Europe.
2. The people, not the politicians should receive this prize
Inglenda2 10/13/2012
It is not at all surprising to see how media in Britain reacts to the Nobel Peace Prize being given to the EU. This jealousy has constantly disturbed relations with the continental countries, ever since the Union has proved to be more successful than the former British Empire. Thereby it would seem strange, how all concerned have forgotten, that it was Winston Churchill, ( Britain’s man of the 20th century), who first suggested the idea of a future unification of Europe – during WW2 - to the exiled general de Gaulle. The present British government would hardly be in a position to remind its own electorate of this fact, for the simple reason of their own current policies which – if it could be given – would entitle them to the Nobel War Prize. However, to praise German politicians such as Kohl and Merkel for their part in European politics is just as ridiculous! They did not even have the courage to ask their fellow nationals whether the Euro currency should be introduced or not. As can now be seen, a common currency, without the basis of common taxes and social systems, does more damage to international relationships, than anything else which the Euro sceptics could possibly bring as an argument.
3. *
BTraven 10/15/2012
The most ridiculous decision ever made by members of a Nobel Peace Prize committee. They completely miscalculated the situation since many people who live outside Europe think that the Euro-crises prevents their home countries from stronger growth or, in the worst cast, does not allow the economy to get bigger at all. It's difficult for them to distinguish. Even I have problems to list all countries which refused to participate. At least it comes at the wrong time. And when I see how people suffer from the measure representatives of EU supported to implement in order to get further credits my doubts even increase. Austerity has caused much social unrest so far. But that has not been considered by the committee. And please, tell me about the role of EU in Libya? Or Syria? Why is it that so many people want a centralised European foreign policy?
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