Right Idea, Wrong Recipient: How the Nobel Peace Prize Missed Its Mark
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2012
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH