Does the EU really deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?
by our secret columnist in Brussels
Predictably, Europhiles have responded to the news of the EU's award with pomposity and preening while their Eurosceptic adversaries have erupted in anger. But just what did the union do to deserve such high praise from the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and is the medal justified? Our resident satirist Schadenfreude finds out
The European Union has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. United States President Barack Obama did precious little to earn his. Did the EU do more? Not mondially. When there have been trouble spots throughout the world the EU has been ultra-marginal. Nearer home in the 1990s, the diverse ethnic and religious strands of former Yugoslavia embarked on killing sprees. The then Luxembourg Foreign Minister proclaimed that this was the EU's opportunity to show itself as the peacemaker. The bloc did not rise to the challenge.
Within what became the EU, there were three wars between 1848 - when Germany suppressed popular dissent - and 1945, two of them worldwide. Millions of military personal and civilians were killed, millions more uprooted. In the half-century since then, the member states of the EU have known peace. Is this the work of the union? In 1945, the western allies had two overriding objectives. One was to stop the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe in which they had acquiesced – having no choice - from spreading westward in the grip of the Communist International.
The second was to promote the domestication of the part of pre-1939 Germany, which they had occupied. They started in the peace terms, which they imposed including an attempt at direct control of the industries of the Ruhr. But their plans would not have succeeded if the West Germans themselves had not decided collectively that they wanted a peaceful existence. The opportunity came when France, alarmed by the pace of German economic recovery, proposed to institutionalise Franco-German interdependence. German coal and steel, the backbone of heavy industry including war-making potential, became a shared asset.
The experiment worked and spread to wider economic integration, including a so far unsuccessful attempt at closer financial ties. Meanwhile, and in parallel, the European core states pooled their defence resources under the leadership (and pressure) of the US superpower and its nuclear shield. Adversaries became allies. Nobody knows what would have happened if the Franco-German pact had not been realised or had failed. Its stated objective was to make war "materially impossible." Post ergo propter? What can be said with confidence is that Europeans chose union as a break with their turbulent past and it has worked for half a century. This is what the Nobel Prize Committee has recognised.