Did the EU deserve the Nobel peace prize?

At this critical juncture for Europe, it is important to remember that the EU – despite its very own shortcomings – has strengthened democracy across the old continent and acted as a vital barrier against extremism and nationalism.

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By Sabin Selimi

In early-October, the Norwegian Nobel committee awarded the 2012 peace prize to the European Union; not a person but a supranational institution, slowly-but-surely evolving into a federation. Perhaps sometime in the future this institution will transform into the United States of Europe, though there will be much resistance along the way. The peace prize citation reminds the world why there is a European Union. It is not just to lower tariffs and make it easier to sell goods and services from the old continent; it is all about war and peace.

There has been a large-scale war approximately every thirty years in Europe’s history of the last two hundred years. After the final cataclysm of World War Two, Europe’s leaders – with considerable American pressure – were determined that another war would never occur. In its beginning, the EU began as a major peace project aimed at reconciling the parties who had so recently been involved in this destructive conflagration.

The first political challenge back then was forming a new diplomatic bridge between Germany and France, Italy and the Benelux states. Initially, the project began in two sectors: coal and steel. It is no coincidence that these were selected, as these were the very industries that munitions had been based upon in Germany and France. The idea was that as Europe got back on its feet after the devastating war, placing the production of coal and steel on a common basis would ensure that the parties could never again use them to build armaments and to start a new conflict.

Though there was a terrible war in the Western Balkans after the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early nineties, today we do not think of Europe as being menaced by the possibility of a vast continental war again. The EU – despite its very own shortcomings – has strengthened stability and democracy in Europe and, according to the democratic peace theory, democracies do not make war against another other.

One of the big wave of countries that entered the EU featured Greece, Portugal and Spain; each a recent dictatorship, whose entry was conditioned on their being stable and democratic. The Norwegian Nobel committee even credited the EU for helping to advance democracy in Turkey, a non-EU state, which it has turned down for membership over the years. Turkey indeed has democratized, but according to Brussels they still lack sufficient human rights guarantees in order to qualify for the EU. Despite become a candidate in 1999 and started negotiations in 2005, doubts about Turkey’s size and geographic location continue to raise doubts within the EU about the prospect of its membership.

Despite the presence of anti-immigration and anti-EU parties in national elections across Northern Europe, it is important to remember that the EU has been, above all else, an important barrier against extreme nationalism. It is extremely important to remind everyone, particularly eurosceptics and nationalists, why the EU was created in the first place, and to underline the importance of maintaining the EU as a barrier against extremism and as a force for global peace.

Sabin Selimi is a student of economics and international studies at the American University in Washington, DC.

If you are interested in contributing to the debate about conflict in Europe, then please contact TransConflict by clicking here.



5 Responses

  1. EU is supra nationalism in the scale of Hitlers Nazism, and has prevented no wars at all.
    Nobels Peace price to EU was a sick joke.

    NATO and FN has prevented war, and EU is the biggest arms eksporter in the Word, so this student must be brainwashed to write such rubbish.

    EU is Fascist and has ruined true Democracy all over Europe. Bilderbergers are in Control in Greece and Italy managing their poppet goverments. EU should be fought by all who remembers what we battled against and for, under World War 2. Namely the right to govern ourselves in free, countries all over Europe, and be proud of the countries we live in as true Democrats, and now EU calls that extreme nationalism? While Angela Merkel and Germany once again tries to rule Europe, and already they have their eye on our money, like Hitler who stole all valuables from the Jews.

  2. This is a great article, finally someone who has got to say something positive about the Nobel Prize for the EU. Unfortunately many critics only think about the last few years and the Euro Crisis, but Europe is about so much more. It’s about being a prime example of reconciliation and cooperation. I am a German, living in the UK, I have got many British friends – unthinkable seventy years ago. Finally, after centuries of warfare Europeans learnt to sort their issues out on the negotiation table instead of on the battle field. This is a real achievement! Surely, NATO contributed to security in Europe, but military is only capable of establishing negative peace, it was the EU, European Head of Governments and us as normal citizens who turned negative peace into positive peace. Yes, the EU is not perfect and especially right now we are learning a painful lesson, but we will go through it. And let’s face it, if countries spend over years more as they generate, then it is just a matter of time until the finances fall apart. We should have seen it coming, all of us – not just the EU. Austerity isn’t perfect and often unequal, but it also means “living within your means”. It is simply not fair if we borrow money that our children have to pay back. And yes, there would have been many other worthy winner out there as well, but we unfortunately we can’t give all of them a prize at the same time.

    @Isabelle, I can assure you that neither I as a German nor Merkel wants your money. We are as much interested in a peaceful Europe as you are. We might have differing ideas on how to achieve that, but your idea about the very purpose and achievements of the EU/Europe seems to be misguided. And if you compare the contemporary Germany with Nazi Germany, then I recommend a look into the history books. Many Germans are not happy about us taking the lead in the crisis, but we are expected to by many EU partners and there would be just as much criticism if Germany would refuse to lead. We lead because we are the biggest economy, not because we want to rule Europe.

    If anyone is interested to read more about my opinion and why the EU is a worthy winner of Peace Nobel Prize Winner


  3. Pingback : Did the EU deserve the Nobel peace prize? | Sabin Selimi

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