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Controversy over Nobel Peace Prize to European Union

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union (EU) has sparked a lively debate in the media and on social networks in Europe and the rest of the world.

On October 12, The Nobel Committee announced the EU as this year's winner. It came as a surprise because the EU had not even been among the favorites for the award. According to the committee, the EU deserves the prize:

Prize motivation: ”for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”

The evolution of the European Union began with creation of the name European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), in line with the project led by Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, who together wrote the Schuman Declaration. The following is a quote from the declaration:

Países miembros de la UE en azul, candidatos a la adhesión en naranja. Imagen de Wikipedia con licencia CC BY-SA 3.0

The member states of the EU are in blue, candidates for membership are in orange. Image from Wikipedia licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0

Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany.

On March 25, 1957, the ECSC decided to go one step further, forming the European Economic Community (EEC) that expanded the powers/competition of the common market to other goods. In the following years, common policies were created and the number of members was increased, until the European Union came to be what it is today, with 27 members, its own parliament, an administration that acts as a legislature for all countries. Both physical and trade borders have been eliminated between these countries (Schengen Area).

The prize comes at a time when social rights achieved by Europeans in years of political stability are suffering a major setback because of the economic crisis that has highlighted the discord among member states. The most prosperous countries of the north blame the crisis on Southern countries [es], calling them wasteful and corrupt, while the poorer Southern countries complain about austerity measures imposed by the north, accusing them of impeding growth and keeping them in such an extreme situation.

Los alemanes los llaman ‘los impostores de la euro-familia’. Los griegos los acusan de hipócritas y de participar en su inmensa deuda desde 1945. Foto del blog cafebabel.es

The Germans call the Greeks «cheaters of the European family». The Greeks accuse the Germans of being hypocrites and participating in its huge debt since 1945. Photo courtesy of the blog cafebabel.es

Within hours following the announcement, news, commentaries and articles flooded the internet in favor and against the award. On Twitter, where the hashtag #nobel has continued to be a trending topic in countries such as Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, the majority of messages oscillate between skepticism and flat out rejection.

@alobatof1: Premio Nobel de la paz a la Union Europea… Menos mal que no le han dado el de Economia…

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union…At least they didn't win the Economy award…

@pedrolanteri: Nobel de la Paz a la Union Europea, proximo año al Oceano por ser tan Pacifico

Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, next year to the Ocean for being so Pacific.

montxoarmendari: La Unión Europea gana el premio Nobel de la Paz :( ¿Por recortes y las armas que venden a otros países?

The European Union wins the Nobel Peace Prize :( For budget cuts and for the weapons they sell to other countries?

@AlberZeal: La Unión Europea premio Nobel de la paz. Qué escándalo. Qué será lo próximo, ¿al presidente de los Estados Unidos? Oh. Espera. Ya.

European Union wins Nobel Peace Prize. What a scandal. Who will be the next winner? The President of the United States? Oh. Wait. That already happened.

Those who support the award argue that in reality, the Nobel has been awarded to a long-term project whose most significant success has been the longest period of peace among the member states. Indeed, the member states of the EU have not suffered a war since World War II. Dylan Matthews provides his perspective in his article Five reasons why the EU deserved the Nobel Peace Prize:

Ruinas de Colonia (Alemania) en 1945. Foto de alfonsopozacienciassociales.wikispaces.com con licencia CC BY-SA 3.0

Ruins in Colon (Germany) in 1945. Photo courtesy of alfonsopozacienciassociales.wikispaces.com licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0

1. But seriously, Germany hasn't invaded France in 70 years.

2. It made the continent —especially poor countries— richer. And that stopped war.

3. It has spread democracy, and democracies don't fight each other.

4. It started a process that will keep hurtling toward more integration.

5. It makes people think of themselves as European.

On the contrary, David Swanson argues that the EU did not deserve the award on the website Dissident Voice:

[The EU] has not during the past year — which is the requirement — or even during the past several decades done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations. Ask Libya. Ask Syria. Check with Afghanistan. See what Iraq thinks. (…)

The West is so in love with itself that many will imagine this award a success. Surely Europe not going to war with itself is more important that Europe going to war with the rest of the world!

Maureen K. Reed, American and Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum tells us:

Emigrantes europeos llegan a la isla de Ellis en 1902. Foto de Wikipedia con licencia CC BY-SA 3.0

Emigrantes europeos llegan a la isla de Ellis en 1902. Foto de Wikipedia con licencia CC BY-SA 3.0

Are there consequences of this 2012 Prize or lessons to learn from it? Europe is an example of why we should hesitate before dismissing any endemically conflict-ridden region as “hopeless.” A hundred years ago our European great-grandmothers might well have characterized Europe as hopeless. In fact, it’s precisely the reason why many of them left. All the pessimism directed towards Europe in 1912 has parallels in other parts of the world today. Somalia? The Middle East? Burma? The EU’s prize reminds us that pessimism is premature, and no region or people should be written off simply because conflict has existed for centuries.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, wrote in Express [en]:

One final thought, maybe they handed the prize to the EU, because they couldn’t wait. Nobel prizes cannot be awarded posthumously.

Finishing with a positive thought, we end with a quote from Carlos Salas on La información.com [es]:

[La UE] Ha sido la mayor integración voluntaria de pueblos en la historia de la Humanidad sin existir una grave amenaza exterior.

[The EU] Has been the largest voluntary integrator of people in the history of Humanity without the existence of a serious external threat.

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