Does Nobel Peace Prize make any change for the EU?

Perhaps not a big change, but… See Nobel Peace Prize announcement.

Questions:

1. Is it justified in your opinion or not, and why?

2. Would you say in may somehow boost the EU in the time of the crisis and discussion about the future?

Answers:

Frank HägeLecturer in Politics, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick

1. We tend to forget what an extraordinary and globally unique creation the EU is. Over the last 60 years, it played a major role in developing a peaceful, stable, and generally prosperous Europe. Not only did it ensure peace and stability in Western Europe after the Second World War, it was also a major force in the peaceful transition of Central and Eastern European countries to democracy after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The still instable political situation in many other countries that were newly established after the collapse of the Soviet Union demonstrates that this positive development of CEE countries cannot be taken for granted.

2. It might remind our politicians that the EU is more than just a vehicle to pursue their countries’ narrow short or medium term economic interests, but I doubt that this will have any lasting effect on their efforts to deal with the crisis.

Vihar GeorgievPhD student, European Studies Department, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski

1. It is justified. The criteria set out by Alfred Nobel himself require having “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” It is quite obvious that the European Union contributes a lot to peaceful international cooperation on a huge number of issues – from nuclear non-proliferation to environmental degradation and the prevention of regional conflicts.

On a broader, strategic level, this award signifies the evident success of the European Union in pacifying the European continent. The mechanism of European integration (along with nuclear deterrence) has greatly contributed to the ongoing unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. In fact, the history of Europe until 1945 has been, more or less, the history of European wars and civil strife.

2. The EU is facing a new transformation. The eurozone crisis may undermine the integration process by creating a well-integrated core – the eurozone Member States, and a somewhat stranded periphery. This is a period of reflection for the future of European integration. Some Member States (such as the UK) are seriously contemplating an exit from the EU, while others (such as Poland) are trying to get into the eurozone club. At the same time others (such as Greece) may be threatened by a possible eurozone exit.

In this atmosphere of uncertainty the Nobel Peace Prize award may become a starting point for a serious discussion on the future of the European integration project and on the threats posed by disintegration and isolation.

Anna VisviziAssociate professor, DEREE – The American College of Greece

1. Several Nobel Peace Prizes, each for specific reasons, were quite controversial (go to the roaster  and make your pick). Against this background, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decision to grant the prize to the EU does not look controversial at all.  Also, the EU is not the first international body that receives this honour. For instance, some of the previous recipients include the Red Cross (1944), UNICEF (1965), UNHCR (1954, 1981), the UN (2001).

Obviously, there will be some commentators contesting the Norwegian Nobel Committee decision to grant the prize to the EU.  It should be stressed, however, that the reasoning behind the Norwegian Nobel Committee decision to grant the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union is quite clear in that the EU’s contribution to advancing peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights across Europe is stressed. These are objective criteria and the EU’s success in these fields cannot be questioned. As stated in the Committee’s press release: ‘The work of the EU represents “fraternity between nations”, and amounts to a form of the “peace congresses” to which Alfred Nobel refers as criteria for the Peace Prize in his 1895 will.’

2. As regards the question of whether the decision of the Nobel Committee may have a value added for the EU thorn by the Eurozone crisis and challenged by the uncertainty of the future: I do not think that it will have any substantial impact on what the EU does and, most importantly, how it is being done. In other words, although the key EU-level actors, at least as seen through the EU-level discourses, have a tendency to raise claims of the EU as a ‘normative power’ whose ‘soft power’ of attraction is reflected by the success of the EU enlargement policy, it is unlikely that the Nobel Peace Prize will add to the EU’s shattered credibility or to its ability to act. This is a matter of common policies resulting from a painful process of decision-making involving the EU member-states and the EU institutions. Hence, the Nobel Peace Prize for the EU is a nice gesture of recognition, but nothing more than that.

Alex Warleigh-LackProfessor, The School of Politics, University of Surrey

1. It’s a good present for the EU’s 60th birthday! It may sound odd to give the prize to an organisation and not a person, but the EU has been right at the heart of peace and stability in Europe for sixty years.

Well, it won’t make people feel any better in Greece or Spain  But in the long run, yes, it could be a great badge of honour. It could be a huge weapon to use against the eurosceptics in Britain, for instance, as it shows the eu is about more than straight bananas.

Carolin Rüger,Institute for Political Science and Social Research – European Research and International Relations, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

In my opinion today’s decision from Oslo is more than justified. If there is “a working peace system” in history, it is the European Union. Born out of war, European integration has brought peace to a continent that was dominated by national rivalries and wars for many centuries. Joseph Rovan, a French political scientist who was in the KZ Dachau, once counted that France and Germany alone fought 27 big wars since the 16th century. The European integration made former enemies to close friends.

Moreover, the peace project over the years has attracted other states like a magnet and helped transform former dictatorships into democracies. Sure enough, the recent crises revealed new rivalries among European nations. But let us think for one moment how crises were dealt with before the European integration and how Europeans manage them nowadays.

From a German point of view, one should never forget, that German unity would not have been possible so easily without embedding the “new” Germany into the European Union. Eduard Schewardnadse once stressed how close we were to a 3rd world war when the Berlin wall fell. European integration helped to overcome mistrust and hostilities.

Indeed, the EU deserves this prize. In contrast to last year’s laureate, it is not an advance praise, but an acknowledgement for successful achievements. However, the Oslo decision is also an incentive to foster and continue this peace project of the 20th century in the 21st century. Europe can be a model for other regions in living together peacefully and respecting democracy and human rights.

By some observers the decision is criticized for being too political in trying to push the European Union in times of crisis. But the Nobel peace prize always had a political dimension. One should not overestimate the effect the prize can have to soothe a continent licking its wounds. However, the award comes at the right moment – not because of the price money for Greece as some buffoons already suggested, but at the right moment to remind Europeans and the world of the precious fortune it is to live on a continent that handles its conflicts by words and not by swords.

There is only one thing I would have suggested the Nobel peace prize committee: It should have awarded the price simultaneously to one of the “grand old men” like Jacques Delors or Helmut Kohl. There are two reasons for this: First, they definitely also would deserve the price and, second, there wouldn’t have been any fuss about who shall take delivery of this prize in December.

Erik JonesProfessor of European Studies, Director, Bologna Institute for Policy Research, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Bologna Center, The Johns Hopkins University

1. It never even occurred to me to consider the European Union for the Nobel Peace Prize and so I just had to look at the citation to see what the thinking is. They make the case very clearly:

“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. The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”

They are right. I cannot tell you how many meetings I have been in where Europeans of a certain age have complained that the current generation fails to recognize that the great accomplishment of European integration is peace. If the Nobel Committee can help to raise that awareness, then it may bolster support for European integration. It may also focus attention on the fact that there is much more for the European Union to do. The press release gives only a hint of the wider agenda:

“The admission of Croatia as a member next year, the opening of membership negotiations with Montenegro, and the granting of candidate status to Serbia all strengthen the process of reconciliation in the Balkans. In the past decade, the possibility of EU membership for Turkey has also advanced democracy and human rights in that country.”

What it does not underscore is that reconciliation in the Balkans is anything but a foregone conclusion. Neither the recent elections in Bosnia nor the new government in Serbia offers much hope that those two crucial countries are beyond concern. Meanwhile, Turkey continues to wrestle with the PKK at home and has entered a period of high tension with Syria. The EU could be more supportive in that context as well. Most important, the EU has a vital role to play across North Africa and into the Middle East. The most remarkable feature of the Arab Spring and its more controversial aftermath is the absence of Europe. The world will be much less stable unless the EU is able and willing to play a more pro-active role.

So while the Nobel Prize Committee is right, they could push the argument much further. Let’s hope that Europe’s leaders take this opportunity to grasp the nettle and work to solidify peace in the western Balkans and extend it across the wider neighborhood. The policy instruments are already there. The political will to activate those instruments and to charge them with the resources necessary to make a real contribution is less evident.

2. That is the positive read of the prize announcement. It is also possible to be less generous. Three years ago the Nobel peace prize committee gave the award to Barack Obama as newly elected president of the United States. Many commentators — including the prize winner — thought this was too soon. Indeed, many voices in the Obama administration worried that this might complicate the new President’s foreign policy agenda. By contrast, the award to the EU is too late. Imagine how much more appropriate this would have been at the time of the Maastricht Treaty when Europe was looking to ensure the success of German unification. The historic enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe was another excellent opportunity to celebrate the success of integration. Those were teachable moments when the generation that we complain about today was ready to learn about the importance of integration for a peaceful continent; let’s hope they are not already too cynical now.

An even more ungenerous thought is about who will give the acceptance speech. Which of Europe’s many presidents will have that honor and how will they decide among themselves? It would be a bitter irony if the Nobel Committee’s prize for peace became yet another occasion for petty conflict at the highest levels.

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