It must be tough sitting on the committee awarding the Nobel Peace Prize. Year after year, come what may, regardless of the state of world affairs or candidates, five Norwegians must decide upon, “the person who has done the most to foster… fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
So, what about yesterday’s prize being awarded to the EU? Is the Nobel Peace Prize loosing credibility? This is not the first time an international organisation and not an individual or multiple individuals have been awarded the prize. In 2007 the International Panel on Climate Change won the accolade.
With the European media awash with speculation about the demise of the Euro, the rise of fascism in Greece and the collapse of a moribund EU, it is pretty balsy, one has to admit, of the Norwegians to announce the EU as the 2012 winner.
Yet love or hate the EU few, not even her detractors, can deny that the EU has fostered a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity on a continent riven – until 1945 – by tribal war-fare.
The student of EU affairs learns early on that out of the destruction and dust of not one but two world wars there arose a unique international structure based on co-operation, trade and democratic goals. What other continent has achieved anything remotely resembling the in-built mechanisms of co-operation, negotiation and compromise that makes the EU structure so unique?
Unlike the nation state, the EU has no territorial ambitions – yet the list of territories wishing to join the club is long.
Unlike the nation state, the EU has no standing army – but it does have a very fine judiciary.
The EU has no democratically elected government – yet is committed to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
This strange organisation – a hodgepodge of supra-national and inter-governmental decision-making, pledged to creating an internal market but drawn inevitably into so much more, is a beacon of peace and prosperity.
The challenge ahead is whether nation states will hold their nerve and see to it that Europe will not slip back into nationalism (and all that entails) but accept co-operation and compromise as the only paths to peace.
The Norwegians – non-EU members – have got it right. The EU with all its failings, challenges and ineptitude has maintained the peace on continental Europe.
The last word, as is frequently the case, must go to Winston Churchill: “To jaw jaw is better than to war war.” Jawing is something the EU has proven itself to be rather good at.