European Union deserves Nobel Peace Prize

By Tyler Davis

Nobel Peace Prize nominees are usually kept secret, so there was much speculation about who would be this year’s laureate.

The prize could have gone to a wide variety of do-gooders, including Burmese President Thein Sein for moving his country’s militaristic government toward democracy or Bradley Manning for divulging vital information to Wikileaks. The Telegraph, a British paper, speculated that Bill Clinton would be nominated. No one was expecting the prize to go to the European Union.

The Nobel Committee, which is based in Norway, has faced harsh criticism for its choice, possibly because the EU’s history of resolving conflicts is currently overshadowed by its financial troubles. An Oct. 13 opinion piece in the National Post, a Canadian newspaper, asked whether the EU’s prize was a “tasteless joke,” and Frida Ghitis wrote an opinion piece for that claimed the committee “wasted an opportunity.” But judging the EU’s credibility on its current troubles dismisses the organization’s history and purpose.

The European institutions created after World War II largely put an end to Europe’s history of war. In 1956, six European countries—West Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg—signed the Treaty of Paris, which consolidated the coal and steel industries vital to war efforts and was a precursor to the formation of the EU. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community, and the Maastricht Treaty officially created the EU in 1993.

The only armed conflict in Europe since World War II was the Eastern European conflicts of the early 1990s involving countries such as Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, which have since joined the EU or are on track to gain membership.

The important thing to remember is that the EU was created to act as a peacekeeping entity in response to the continent’s major wars. It may have financial problems today, but its mission has always been to promote peace and unity among European nations. Forget the Euro and the debt of Greece, Portugal and Spain. The EU won’t be winning the Nobel Prize for economics any time soon, but it has succeeded in bringing peace to formerly violent parts of the world.

Although the Nobel Peace Prize, created in 1901 by Alfred Nobel, has been given to individual activists and politicians in recent years, organizations like the EU also deserve recognition for their success in creating positive change in global politics.

For example, Turkey’s aspiration to join the EU prompted the country to pay closer attention to human rights, and Spain, Greece and Portugal were only allowed to join the EU’s predecessor in the 1980s on the condition they adopt democracy.

With the threat of a financial meltdown lurking over the EU, the Nobel Committee’s decision clearly has political implications, as have many of their past choices. President Barack Obama’s 2009 Peace Prize was meant to show faith in his plans for the U.S., but it  was given a bit too early. This time, the committee seems to be sending Europe and the world the message that large problems can only be solved through cooperation. Many have used Europe’s fiscal woes as proof that the unity experiment failed. The Nobel Committee is not only celebrating the EU’s history of peacemaking, but also betting on its future. In these economically unstable times, peacekeeping institutions are more important than ever.

“We saw that the prize could be important in giving a message to the European public of how important it is to secure what they have achieved on this continent,” said committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland in a statement.

While the achievements of rumored Peace Prize nominees Clinton, Gates and Manning are more obvious and tangible, large institutions like the EU create peace in a way that is abstract but still very important. The EU transformed Europe into a peaceful continent after a long history of war, which couldn’t have been done without cooperation from the region’s superpowers.