Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(Opinion) EU 2012 Nobel Peace Prize: A Prize Deserved?


There are many things you can say about Nobel peace prize and its awarding committee, among them would be that they sure know how to pick their winners. From awarding the peace prize to Henry Kissinger despite his well-documented involvement at the tail end of the Vietnam War to Barack Obama winning the award in the midst of two protracted wars, the noble peace prize has a history of awarding public figures with a lot of blood on their hands.

However one of its strangest awards to date was giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. While it’s not unusual for political organisations to win the prize such as Amnesty International and the UN, it is quite strange that a political project has won in what is probably its most trying period.

Recent years may have tested the EU as political and economic project, but what is not up for debate is the EU is the most successful political project in the history of international politics. For centuries Europe had been rife with “divisions, tensions and conflicts” borne out of competition and imperial ambition[1].

These two factors made sure Europe would remain a Hobbesian nightmare halfway through the 20th century as the continent experienced two world wars and several failed attempts at diplomacy in-between, notably with the League of Nations. However, Influenced by the brutality and death that characterised the Second World War, leaders across Europe realised the need for a united Europe ensuring that war will never break out in Europe ever again.

The fact that the peace has held in Europe for so long after centuries of conflict and competition owes much to the process of integration between the economies of EU member states and laws strengthening human rights legislation. The success of the EU has been that it has meant greater cooperation between nations in Europe, particularly the big three, Britain, France and Germany, key players in both world wars. In recent years the EU has expanded eastward with the accession of former soviet states to full membership.

However, the process of integration and cooperation mediated by the EU has led to developments that have been met with less than other endeavours. The establishment of the single currency was seen by some as the most ambitious development in uniting Europe even further and seen as a major threat to national sovereignty by others.

The Euro was seen by supporters as the most audacious statement of intent by EU member states to unify Europe by tying their fates together by establishing the European Monetary Union (EMU). While the language of the EMU was economic, it was motivated purely by politics as the EMU remarkably took  many of the controls traditionally handled by member states and put them in the hands of technocrats in Brussels. This was accomplished through the rather strict monetary requirements aspiring EMU members had to meet to join the single currency[2].

While the idea of uniting Europe in the interest of peace and prosperity has been a success, the undemocratic nature of the political project has been the source of bickering among member states and the economic stagnation of many members of the EMU, Greece being the most prominent example

The EU’s response to the Eurozone crisis has been poor to say the least as the troika of the EU, IMF and ECB has forced upon Greece’s strict austerity measures and heavily conditioned bailouts in an attempt to keep Greece in the EMU despite default being a painful but viable option. The fact that the EU has partnered with the IMF leads to questions of it lack of accountability due to the IMF’s use of notorious structural adjustment programs recommended to countries of the global south.    

These polices that  have caused instability in many nations in the global south have now been imposed on Greece and has led to frequent, often violent protest by ordinary Greek citizens against strict austerity measures used by its government and the EU itself. 

The search for consensus by EU leaders from EU member states has led to creation of the fiscal pact, which will impose tough fiscal measures to make sure its members keep financially sound budgets, mostly through measures that have failed miserably in Greece.On this evidence it is quite strange that the Nobel peace prize has been awarded to the EU this year as its polices have caused instability in Greece and it ideological preference for an united Europe has weakened significantly it member states ability to react to economic and political crisis

In conclusion, the EU is the most successful political project in the history of international politics and should be recognised for playing a large role in why there has been no war in Europe from Second World War onwards. However, to award the EU the Nobel Peace Prize when its policies have caused instability in Greece and threatened the future of the Eurozone is bizarre to say the least


[1] N. Nugent, 2006, The Government and Politics of the European Union, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan
[2] S. G. McGiffen, 2001, The European Union: A Critical Guide, London, Pluto Press (p.60)

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