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European Union Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

October 19, 2012

The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union (EU) “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” Nobel Peace Prize winners often stir controversy. In 2009, many people questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize, noting President Obama had not yet done anything to advance peace. The Nobel committee stated, “The Nobel Peace Prize 2009 was awarded to Barack H. Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Essentially, the committee gave Obama the peace prize because of his intentions to alter US foreign policy, opting for a more multilateral approach opposed to former President Bush’s unilateral methods. Other controversial winners include Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat, both statesmen heavily involved in promoting war.

As for the EU, the main objections seem centered on the economic uncertainties of the euro crisis, rising anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and continuing unrest throughout parts of Southern Europe. Another criticism faulted the Nobel committee itself. Forbes Magazine criticized the Nobel committee for distorting the meaning of the prize by justifying its winners in terms of criteria that had nothing to do with peace, such as Al Gore’s peace prize for his work on global warming. It would be difficult for the Nobel committee, if not impossible, to ever pick a winner that is universally recognized as worthy, though many claim Mahatma Gandhi may have been such a winner. The Nobel committee nominated Gandhi five different times, including the last time in 1948, but Gandhi was assassinated that year and according to Nobel rules at the time, no posthumous awards could be given. That year the committee decided to give the award to no one stating, “There was no suitable living candidate.” EU leaders have expressed enthusiasm for the award. This is maybe because the EU has received so little positive news of late. EU President Herman Van Rompuy invited all 27 heads of state in the European Council to attend the Nobel ceremony in December. United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron objected to this idea and instead pushed for having 27 children, one from each member state attend the event.

Judging whether or not the EU truly deserves the award is a daunting task, but the Nobel committee’s reasons for giving the award are credible. Europe has been plagued by intra-European wars for centuries. World War I and World War II both started in Europe and between European actors. Though it can be argued the US deserves much of credit for ending these wars and for promoting an integration of Europe after World War II, Europe integrated on its own and in doing so it created a partially supranational governing body, the only and first one in history. Starting as a customs union for coal and steel, over the past 60 years, the EU has grown into a peaceful political and economic union that has pragmatically sought to tackle its own problems of democratic deficits, income inequality, protectionist economies, as well as promoting the ideas of democracy, social justice, environmental concern, economic liberalization, and a concern for human rights, rule of law, and world peace. The 27 member states of Europe are democracies that have adjusted to the EU’s strict rules including those pertaining to human rights and equality under the law, and for the past 60 years none of these states waged war against each another. The EU certainly deserves credit for uniting such a large and diverse continent thwarting war and advancing democracy.

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