It all started with the aftermath of World War II and in the emotional and material rumbles of Europe. The visionary great men of Europe — Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer — understood that peace in Europe would only be possible through deep economic integration, strengthening an irreversible degree of cooperation between Western European powers.
Sixty-one years after the Treaty of Paris, which established the European Coal and Steel Community, the EU — best defined by Jacques Delors as a UPO, or an Unidentified Political Object — won the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. For every person studying, following and caring about this unique endeavor, the Peace Prize should not be perceived as an accomplishment in itself but as a recognition of the EU’s contribution to peace, stability and democracy. In fact, the members of the committee may have not realized that they just welcomed 500 millions Europeans into this prestigious and exclusive circle of great women and men.
Once again the Prize comes with some strings attached. In some ways, the decision to award the EU is comparable to Obama’s nomination following his victory of the U.S. presidential race in 2008. Both are under considerable scrutiny. At the time, Obama had yet to perform and prove that he deserved this prize; similarly, the EU is facing one of its most vicious and visceral crises in decades.
The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, declared “this is in a way a message to Europe that we should do everything we can to secure what has been achieved and more forward. […] We have to keep in mind what has been achieved on this continent and not let the continent go into disintegration again. We know what it means: the emergence of extremism and nationalism once again.”
Naturally Eurosceptics — citizens and politicians — across Europe will argue: Is that a joke? Considering the serious financial crisis within the eurozone, governments in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and now France, have pushed for austerity measures. Such measures do hurt the viability and provisions offered by the welfare state. In addition to the financial crisis and the reforms of the welfare state, the numbers of unemployment are extremely high throughout Europe. For example, Spain is facing 25% unemployment, France around 10%, and so on. But to really answer eurosceptics’ question: Should everyone take a moment and ask himself/herself what has the EU done for him or her? If borders are virtually non-existent inside Europe; if war is unthinkable; if peace is taken for granted in a world wherein conflicts, mass-killings and basic violations of human rights are occurring too often then here is the answer. These simple statements put into perspective the influence and contribution of the EU. However, is the EU perfect? Far from it. The Nobel Prize did not award the EU based on its institutional design or its common market, but to its true contribution to peace. The prize could not come at a better time when European politicians are all too focused on getting elected, and in the meantime, do not have any problems bashing Europe.
Lastly, what will happen to the money awarded? Who should be giving the speech? Who should be in the picture? The prize may lead to an interesting debate in Brussels. President of the Commission, Manuel Barroso, should figure on top of the list, well ahead of the President of the Council, Van Rompuy. However, the problem with both men is that they were appointed by the Member States; they weren’t directly elected. So if the EU does not want to make a foul of itself in this euphoric times, the right person should be the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. Soon after learning about the award, he declared that “The EU is an unique project that replaced war wih peace, hate with solidarity.” The Nobel Peace Prize should be seen as the turning point in the integration process of the EU, let’s put the European citizens at the heart of it.