by Mabel Grossi
The announcement of the Nobel Committee in Oslo to award the European Union with the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize left me quite puzzled. Announcing the decision, Thorbjørn Jagland, head of the Nobel committee, said: "The main message is that we need to keep in mind what we have achieved on this continent, and not let the continent go into disintegration again." The alternative was "awful wars", he warned. In addition, "The EU is the biggest peacemaking institution ever created in human history," said Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, stressing that the EU had helped to transform Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace. Indeed, the EU was born among the ashes of World War II, rising from the conviction that ever closer economic ties would make sure that century-old enemies never turned on each other again. But did Europe really proved to be successful in achieving peace within the EU and outside?
First of all, this award represents an important political indicator: there is the fear that the European Union might implode under the weight of the sovereign states' debt crisis and therefore exacerbate national tensions that had been reduced by the European Community experiment. This award came at the crucial moment in which the Union is trying its best to keep itself together and not fall apart into a mosaic of conflicting political and economical identities. Secondly, it seems controversial to receive a Peace Prize when the austerity policies adopted by the EU have left its population impoverished, fostering a climate of anger and despair that emerged into violent protests across Europe. As a matter of fact, according to a recent report by UNICEF, in Greece there are 439.000 children living below the poverty line, undernourished and forced to live in unhealthy environments.
I reckon the real purpose behind the Peace Prize is not to reward the Union's efforts towards peace but to instill a sense of trust in the European Union during such a difficult time. The idea itself of a strong “Union” has been challenged after many European newspapers addressed the question about which country is going to Oslo on behalf of the EU to receive the Peace Prize. And again the controversial detail is that the Nobel Committee's Jury is chaired by the Norwegian Nobel Thorbjørn Jagland, whose country is not even a member of the EU since the Norwegian citizens had expressed their refusal to enter the European common market in the 1973 and 1994 referendums. After all these considerations, how can we possibly welcome the Peace Prize to the EU without feeling a tiny concealed sense of bewilderment?
As a matter of fact, a thorough analysis of the Lisbon Treaty would probably leave many pacifists dismayed. Article 42 clearly states: “The policy of the Union in accordance with this Section shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defense policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defense realized in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defense policy established within that framework”. And again: “Member States shall undertake to progressively improve their military capabilities "and establish a" permanent structured cooperation (CSP) [which] must allow, in particular, strengthening the capacity and military capabilities available to the EU and its operations”. How happy Libyans, Iraqis and Afghans will be to read the news about this Peace award, and also all the other populations who have received our peaceful European bombs. I also wonder if the the members of the Nobel Committee considered the fact that the EU has prevented Turkey from joining the Union (since its official candidacy in 1999) due to the long-running and unsolved conflict with Cyprus and the denial of the Armenian genocide, when the EU itself indirectly supports and treats Israel in a preferential way in many sectors, including the economy, tourism, and education, even if it means going against its own articles of association stating that the EU shall in no way support a state in breach of international law or human rights (which is clearly the case in Israel).
This award seems especially an insult to all the victims and relatives of the victims of Srebrenica, Kosovo as well as those of Belgrade, Sarajevo, Tuzla and all the other cities of former Yugoslavia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. But we do not need to go this far, let's consider the area of the Mediterranean. After having allegedly supported and generously nurtured with billions of Euros dictators such as Ben Ali in Tunisia and Qaddafi in Libya, the EU acted inconsistently when the people of these countries started their revolutions. And what are the peaceful institutions of the EU doing to stop the slaughter in Syria? We could be indulgent towards these errors but, frankly, the Peace Prize seems way too excessive.
We do not want to disparage the Institution of the Nobel Peace Prize tout cur, on the contrary its commendable efforts in giving remarkable credit to all the people, institutions and organizations which effectively improved peace in this world are undoubtedly warmly welcomed. Such important contributors like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King cannot be questioned, and it is not even the first time that a Peace Prize raises doubts, as was the case with the Al Gore in 2007 and Obama in 2009. But I believe in the last years the Peace Prize has lost some of its significance as it turned out to represent only a matter of good intentions that have not been borne out by the facts. It looks like a political statement rather than an effectively practical contribution to peace. In fact, Peace is not made only through good intentions and I must agree with Jean-Louis Bourlanges when he states "it is not Europe which creates Peace, but it is Peace which creates Europe”.