Why the critics are right and the EU still deserves the Nobel Prize


There is a monument in Sarajevo to honor the international community hiding behind the now closed Bosnian museum. It is a giant can of beef with the ironic “thank you to the International Community”. The EU flag leaves little doubt who is the main addressee of the ironic monument.

The decision of the Nobel committee to award this years peace prize to the EU has been probably nowhere as controversial as in the Balkans. The suggestion that the EU “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” rings hollow. After the ill-fated claim of Luxembourg FM Jacques Poos that this was the “hour of Europe”, the EC and later the EU failed miserably in the first half of the 1990s not only in preventing the dissolution of Yugoslavia and its ensuing violence, but also in ending the massive human rights violations (see the new excellent book in the topic by Josip Glaurdic). A comment in The Atlantic suggests that its failure in the Balkans during the 1990s makes it undeserving of the prize (this is more substantial criticism than others which suggest that continents shouldn’t win it–after all the EU isn’t a continent or opposing organizations winning it–plenty organizations including international organizations have won the prize in the past, i.e. the UN in 2001)

Tim Judah argued that it is in the Balkans that the EU has actually deserved its prize for transforming the region in the past decade through accession. It is easy to remind of the failings of the EU in the 1990s and to take a cynical view of the EU’s policies towards the Balkans in the past ten or so years. However, the prize is deserved for two reasons.

First, the prize is not just awarded to those who have worked for peace in the past, but also for those that hold promise to do so in the future. Winner like Jassir Arafat and Itzhak Rabin or Mohamed Sadat and  Menachem Begin. It is thus not only the past that matters but also the future. The prize has been used by the Nobel Committee to nudge those who had taken steps towards promoting peace. As such, the prize is not a reward, but an encouragement.

Second, the prize is also a reminder: It comes at the right time for the institutions and the governments of the member states to reflect on the fact that the at the core of EU integration lay its aim to secure peace, or as Robert Schuman notes in the 1950 declaration “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.” The EU has found a  gradualist approach, often against the will of key actors who became unwittingly builders of the Union, to bring this about. This gradual movement, not build on a single plan or blueprint can be frustrating to those who want a federal Europe now and infuriating to skeptics who miss the agency of the process. However, no other way could the EU have been built. The prize is a recognition for what the EU is, not what it did or does. Its policy to bring peace and prosperity is admirable, but often flawed and ineffective. As such, the prize should remind the EU and its political leaders to not just talk about the peace project EU on Sunday speeches, but fill it with meaning.

In order to become deserving of the prize, the EU should own up to past mistakes—an appology for its flawed role in the 1990s would be appropriate and make sure that its raison d’etre is not forgotten.



2 Responses to Why the critics are right and the EU still deserves the Nobel Prize

  1. Which makes him nothing mroe than a village idiot
    gravelling at the feet of America’s enemies. The first case in point is the Israeli-Palestinian problem. There are lots of people all over the world doing this.

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