EU wins Nobel Peace Prize
- Published: 12/10/2012 at 06:17 PM
- Online news:
The European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, providing a feel-good moment for the economically distressed region at a time when its post-national vision is losing traction at home and abroad.
Top EU leaders and parliamentarians hailed the award as long-overdue recognition of the overall success of the European experiment. Others were perplexed by the choice, pointing to the serious social unrest that austerity policies have brought in some countries.
The EU beat out 188 people and 42 organisations nominated for this year’s peace prize, in a selection process that will remain secret until the Nobel archives are opened in 2062.
The accolade comes as the financial crisis threatens the EU's signal achievement, the euro, and the rise of powers such as China, India and Brazil challenges the European model of rules-based cooperation with nation-states handing sovereign rights to a central authority.
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso speaks after the European Union was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.
The award served as a reminder that the EU had largely brought peace to a continent that had torn itself apart in two world wars in which tens of millions died.
The EU has transformed most of Europe "from a continent of wars to a continent of peace", Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said in announcing the award in Oslo on Friday.
"The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU's most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights," he said.
Jaglund praised the EU for rebuilding Europe after World War II and for its role in spreading stability after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
"We have to keep in mind what has been achieved on this continent and not let the continent go into disintegration again. We know what it means: the emergence of extremism and nationalism once again."
Born out of the embers of Europe’s 20th-century wars, the bloc has grown from six countries in 1957 to 27, embracing 500 million people with an economy of $15 trillion. It was formed as insurance against another European conflict, a rationale that has receded as the World War II generation dies off.
In addition to a gold medal, the award to be handed out in Oslo on Dec 10 will consist of a Nobel diploma and 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million).
For the head of the European People's Party, Wilfred Martens, years of peace meant "this under-rated European achievement has finally received the recognition it deserves"
In marked contrast, the reaction from eurosceptics bordered on the derisory.
"This goes to show that the Norwegians really do have a sense of humour," said leading Brityish eurosceptic lawmaker Nigel Farage, who wants a referendum on Britain leaving the EU.
"The EU may be getting the booby prize for peace because it sure hasn't created prosperity. The EU has created poverty and unemployment for millions."
In the Twitter world, many commentators could scarcely contain their derision and anger, although some came to the EU's defence.
"How much money does the Nobel Peace Prize reward? Maybe they're trying to save the European Union economy and take the win next year," joked a US poster, @ToBeReadOutLoud.
"Anti-austerity protests in Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy & France, Nationalism, Fascism, unemployment and poverty. Yeah EU deserves it!" said @AnonOpGreece.
With the pick, the Norwegian judges once again courted controversy. Three years after US President Barack Obama garnered the honour for what he hadn't done yet, the EU was recognised for what it did long ago: anchor peace and prosperity on a continent that brought forth two world wars.
The award citation accentuated the past, relating how the reconciliation of Germany and France gave birth to the European project and served as a democratic beacon that, with the embrace of former Soviet satellites in 2004, put an end to the East-West conflict.
Jose Barroso, president the European Commission, took that as a call to action. At a briefing in Brussels, he said the Nobel committee sent "a very important message to Europe: that the European Union is something very precious, that we should cherish it"
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, often criticised for imposing austerity on southern Europe, said the euro crisis management goes beyond profit-and-loss accounting.
Speaking to reporters in Berlin, she said: "The euro is more than a currency and we should not forget this during these weeks and months as we work to strengthen the euro.
"The last decades of peace in Europe -- that is a long time for those of us living in the European Union. But for history, it is a blink of an eye. And that is why we must keep working for it."
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Writer: Bloomberg News and AFP