The needless controversy of Nobel Peace Prize

The decision to award Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union has sparked controversy both around Europe and the world and further diminished its value in some eyes, given current uneasy developments of Eurozone crisis. The award became another good chance for Euro critics to smear the union, leaving a bad taste overall.

How could organization like this receive the prize? The historic arguments are long overdue or irrelevant, critics argue. Other commentators note that it is undertaking economic colonialism in Greece and supporting Syrian rebel movements, its member states initiated the Libyan campaign and it is rolling back on the democratic principles, others say. Some simply disregard the hand-in as an absolute joke.

Nigel Farage, the leading political Eurosceptic from UKIP, cites the lack of democratic legitimacy, the difficulties of the euro and critical situation in Greece. He highlights failure to react to post-Yugoslavian struggle, the country with which he loves to compare EU a lot. Farage even argues that “there was no prospect” Western Europe would have ended up in conflict after World War II without the European Union. It seems that in his eyes EU is if not the worst, then the most useless organization.

Global voices also criticize the award. Former Nobel Peace Prize winners, such as Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel said it was “wrong” to recognize the EU in this context because it is an organization which is based on military force.

While some of the criticisms make sense to a certain extent, the overall entirety of arguments are led by the lone objective to discredit the Union or lack arguments behind the opinion.

There are numerous reasons why European Union is the most deserving regional state organization to receive Nobel Peace Prize.

Lessons of history

The path of hoping conflict will resolve itself after World War II would have been very risky, as the failure of reconciliation after World War I proved. The memories of Nazism and Fascism were still fresh. General Francisco Franco, who, though he distanced himself from fascism, still ruled Spain until 1975. Military junta controlled Greece in 1967-74. Although conflict was not by any means certain, an economic union, based on principles of equality and democracy, reduced possible tensions within Western Europe. Previously, smaller or larger interstate conflicts every decade was the normality of the continent. This pattern has not reoccurred within EU since its foundation.

The success of European Union and its predecessors facilitated the spread of democracy around Europe. After authoritarian regimes were thrown out from Greece, Spain and Central Eastern European states, the will to seek benefits of joining the EU put them on path of long-term democratisation. Current candidate states, such as Serbia and Kosovo, are also much more likely to solve their differences through peaceful means to ease their accession process.

One of biggest achievements of the European Union is the successful integration of Central Eastern European states after fall of Berlin wall.

Ever since accession, member states never looked back and developed strong respect for democracy and human rights. Ukraine, Moldova or Belarus are perfect examples of where they could have ended up otherwise. Peace simply cannot be taken as a given.

No other regional union has been so successful in deterring sympathy of oppressive rule and radical action. African Union never ensured peace and security on the continent. Organization of American States was not able to stop conflict in El Salvador or Guatemala. The unique results of European Union puts it in its own league.

The core EU principle of idealism

The majority of EU members are willing to make policy decisions based on idealism of humanitarian values, rather than narrow political interests and seek legitimation from all key actors, at least more so than any other state or group of nations.

Despite the fact NATO and EU consist of many common member states, organizations should not be equated. Only few European states took part in Iraq war, while France, Germany and many other EU states strongly opposed it. The action in Libya was only taken after clear cost of human life and UN Security Council. The majority of the EU never took part in any military action, without resolution from this body.

It is not just freedom seekers, such as Tibet, who face EU’s geopolitical opponents that are supported. European idealism is proven by its reaction towards Palestine’s struggle for statehood. EU’s common position is that Palestine’s independence is “critical” to peace process and many EU states recently supported nation’s status upgrade in United Nations, with only Czech Republic voting against. EU has also been considering sanctions over Israel and highlighted the importance of pre-1967 war borders.

EU is a strong supporter of principles of international law too. When United States refused to join International Criminal Court, which deals with crimes against humanity and could potentially hold cases on American citizens, it also tried to negotiate bilateral agreements with individual states, some of which agreed not to extradite American citizens for trial in ICC. EU then introduced a new accession requirement, the abolishment of any similar treaties. Those who commit the worst crimes and disregard human rights should face trial regardless of their nationality. That is the stance of European Union.

It is perhaps just a coincidence, but United Kingdom, the lone European country, which continuously supported unilateral military policies of United States, is now doubting its future in the EU and considering an exit referendum.

But there are so many other ways EU contributed to efforts of ensuring peace both directly and indirectly. EU has completed more than a hundred election observation missions since 1992, weighing in post-conflict democracy building. It has provided humanitarian resources to Syria, Sudan and other places. It is the only of major powers to call for abolishment of death penalty and it called the US to close Guantanamo Bay. The military budget of all EU member states combined as percentage of GDP is smaller than that of other major powers, such as US, China or Russia.

In stark contrast, EU states provide world-leading 39% of United Nations budget. It led the negotiations of climate change for many years now and facilitated many more concrete results than Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize winner of this cause.

On a final note, before critics point to Greece, their main counter-example, it is key to state that Greek debts would have led the state to face IMF condionalities policies and austerity or bankruptcy dilemma even if it was not part of the EU. Other states such as Lithuania or Estonia entirely escaped a similar scenario through austerity measures, the latter even joining Eurozone in process, and Portugal or Ireland, which also received financial support, avoided large outbursts of violence. If other states did, why not Greece?

It is clear that European Union both, as an organization and as a group of states, has done much more than ensure peace after World War II, a great feat itself. Despite some of its shortcomings, the organization and majority of its member states has consistently contributed to the efforts of international harmony throughout the whole time of its existence. Active involvement in conflict areas, leadership in climate change talks, humanitarian support, respect of international law and value-based politics is the reality of EU today.

It is the totality of these things together that makes European Union a worthy winner of Nobel Peace Prize. Europeans should be proud, not judgmental. They are recipients of this fine prize too.

Country (10 biggest economies) Military expenditure (% of GDP)   Country (Biggest UN contributors) Contribution (% of UN budget)
United States 4.7% EU27 38.991%
Russia 3.9% United States 22%
India 2.6% Japan 12.53%
World Average 2.5% Germany 8.018%
United Kingdom 2.5% United Kingdom 6.604%
France 2.5% France 6.123%
China 2% Italy 4.999%
Italy 1.6% Canada 3.207%
EU27 1.6% China 3.189%
Brazil 1.5% Spain 3.177%
Germany 1.3% Mexico 2.356%
Japan 1% S.Korea 2.26%
Source: IMF, 2011 and Sipri, 2011 Source: UN, 2011

18. December 2012 by Karolis
Categories: Comment, English, International Relations | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *