By Jean-Baptiste Houdart. Originally published on 2012/10/13
After the European Union was officially announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, on Friday October 12 2012, various newspapers have gathered first hand reactions from high-profile personalities. Yet, after the euphoria, comes the reflexion. This article aims at bringing answers to the question: Why did the EU win the Nobel Peace Prize?
1.Almost immediately after the unusual leak, the Chairman of the Norwegian panel awarding the prize, Mr. Jagland, said that for more than six decades the European Union (EU) and its ancestors have contributed to the promotion of peace, reconciliation, democracy and Human Rights. He added that the panel considered this achievement as the most important of the Union’s history and asked the EU to continue to carry out such work.
2.While the distinguished Jean-Dominique Giuliani, President of the Robert Schuman foundation, argued that the EU should have received the award a long time ago because it has created something ever seen before: the peaceful unification of an entire continent, EU officials have been celebrating and praising the unexpected news.
3. However, criticisms also rose soon after the announcement. Amongst others, critics argue that the EU did not fully deserve such an award as in the aftermath of the World War II, it was NATO and not the EU or its ancestors who brought peace and stability in Europe. So the question we ought to ask is why has the EU been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? I see mainly four possible answers to this question.
4. First, the most europhile explanation is to say that the Nobel Peace Prize committee finally recognized the achievements of the EU and its ancestors… Sixty years later. If it is true that the EU did bring long-lasting peace to the old continent after World War II and throughout the Cold War, it appears somehow bold to reward it with such a prize now; in a situation that Greeks would qualify as everything but peaceful. Yet, the promotion by the EU of peaceful unification, reconciliation, Human Rights and democracy, does not limit itself within its border and, in my opinion, the EU deserves recognition for all the work it has and still iscarrying out in the world.
5. The second explanation, the most euro-skeptic, lies on the political aspect of the Nobel Peace Prize committee. In fact, as theNew York Timesexpresses it, no nominees from North Africa could win the prize because of the current bloodshed in Syria and the risk of generating a regional conflict. Also, no nominees from Russia could win the prize because Mr. Jagland, the Chairman of the Norwegian Committee of the Nobel Peace Prize, is also the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and as such, Mr. Jagland could not dare to deteriorate its neutral relationship with the Russian government. Finally, as Norway is known for being overwhelmingly opposed to the EU, it appears acceptable to think that the pro-EU Norwegian Committee would have forced the way in favour of the EU for the Nobel prize.
6. The third explanation is based on the idea that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the EU as a “wakeup call” message for politicians. The idea here is that the prize has been awarded to the EU in order to remind it its own past, its values and achievements. This is understandable when you look at the current background situation of the EU. Indeed, the EU is in a situation where tensions are rising over austerity measures in Greece, extremism, nationalism, and sometimes even neo-nazism is rising in several EU Member States. Furthermore, in the words of the leader of the Green/ FEA group at the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a replicas of the situation between France and Germany at the end of the First World War is slowly taking place between Germany and Greece. Under those circumstances it seems acceptable to see the Nobel Peace Prize, similarly to the one awarded to President Obama in 2008, as a warning and call for future actions.
7. However, maybe the explanation is completely unrelated to politics and power: A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the chances to win aNobel Prize correlate to the amount of chocolate one eats. In fact, as an article published byCNN from January 2012 expresses it
“Europeans account for nearly half of all the chocolate the world eats, according to the International Cocoa Organization. The average Brit, Swiss or German will each eat around 11 kilograms (24 pounds) of chocolate a year.”
The link is clear, Europeans account for nearly half of all the chocolate consumption in the world, that means Europeans simply had better chances to win the Nobel Prize.
8. To Conclude, as the newspaper the Atlantic nicely phrases it, “the timing of this year’s award to the EU is nakedly political […] But that doesn’t make the award less right or just, for present difficulties do not obscure or negate the idea that there is no single institution more responsible for economic prosperity and political harmony in postwar Europe than the European Union”. For what it has achieved in the past, for what it promotes outside its borders, for the faith people should have on it and for all the chocolate Europeans eat, I want to say: Congratulation to the European Union.