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Friday, October 12, 2012

EU and the Nobel peace prize: the once-celebrated actor who just got a life-time achievement award?

It’s common practice in Hollywood to give a life-time achievement award to a once-celebrated actor whose career is in decline. Although he or she hasn't really done a good movie in years, the award acts like a bit of encouragement and/or belated recognition. The exercise is partly driven by appreciation but also has a condescending feel to it, with the implicit suggestion being that your best days are behind you.

When we heard the unexpected news today that the EU won the 2012 Nobel Peace prize, we couldn't help but to draw this analogy. You can almost picture the actor (the 'EU' in this case) – dragging themselves up onto the stage to collect their award despite having since gone through several broken marriages, a series of stays in rehab, and a ton of plastic surgery. It’s all for show – but we can’t help but feel it’s a bit sad at the same time.

As ever with the Nobel Peace Prize, this year’s decision will divide opinion – to put it mildly. British eurosceptics’ blood pressure has already been raised several notches. And equally we don’t want to ruin the orgy of self-congratulation currently underway in Brussels. While Europe’s epic moments have belonged to national politicians and not to Eurocrats, these guys haven’t had something to celebrate since the Irish were forced to vote ‘Yes’ in the second Lisbon referendum; they (sort of) need a bit of a break.

But what’s clear is the EU isn't exactly hot at the moment. Trust in the EU in the Mediterranean – the countries to which the zone of peace and stability spread in the 1980s and who have traditionally been the strongest supporters of the project - has dropped from 55% to 25% in a decade, in the wake of euro-induced pain. Several countries are in recession. Angela Merkel got a pretty rough reaction in Greece earlier this week. Far from uniting countries and fostering “solidarity”, the Eurozone crisis risks driving a wedge at the heart of the European project, between north and south in particular.

But at the same time, to be fair, despite Angela Merkel trying to bundle the two together (a mistake), the EU isn't only the euro. The Nobel committee is right that 'the EU' as a trading block has contributed to stability and peace in Europe, first following WWII and then carrying on throughout the transition of Mediterranean ex-dictatorships and post-Communist countries. The idea of stability through trade is fundamentally a good one, and enlargement is the EU’s only proper foreign policy tool. But the awarding committee, of course, hugely simplifies the issue. The EU is only one of several factors which played in maintaining peace and stability in Europe after WWII; the role of NATO cannot be overlooked in this context.

The saddest (some would describe it as the most ironic) part about the EU’s lifetime achievement award is that through ideological over-reach, political vanity and economically illiteracy, i.e. the Eurozone at 17, much of what Europe has collectively achieved with respect to trade, peace and stability, risks being undermined. The committee should have added this lesson to its motivation: trying to stamp out economic and democratic realities through political and ideological ambition alone never ends well.

PS: Organisations have of course won the prize before – the UN, the inter-governmental panel on climate change, Amnesty international etc – but the debate is currently raging as to who, exactly, will accept the prize. This links to a second question. Who, exactly, did the Norwegians award the Nobel Peace Prize to? Jose Manuel Barroso? Herman Van Rompuy? Angela Merkel – whose taxpayers are currently paying for the party? The European Parliament - many of whose MEPs are under the impression that they are seen as the legitimate democratic voice for European citizens? The head of that fine entity known as the European Social and Economic Affairs Committee (if you've never heard of it, not to worry)? Or the millions of Europeans who travel and trade across borders rather than shooting at each other (and vote for politicians who want them to do just that)? Who, exactly?

If the latter, the Open Europe team is honoured to have received the Nobel Peace Prize – and the roughly €0.0027 each that the prize money comes to. (Nobel prize award of €1,354,045 ÷ 502,489,143 inhabitants = per citizen via @RuadhanIT).


perdix said...

Perceptive piece.... awarded because "your best days are behind you".

Rik said...

Or summarised: a joke.

Bob Lagaaij said...

Here are the results of the Oslo jury: Arafat, Obama (new kid on the block), Kissinger, Sadat, Chamberlain, Briand and so on and so on. Are we really surprised? Three hurrahs for nearly 111 years of political correctness and ignorance. And the next candidate is...Lance Armstrong?

Rollo said...

This award makes a mockery of the whole Nobel process. What peace has the EU achieved? Srebrinica? Ruanda? Kosovo?
How did they ensure Peace? Only Nato did that: I know, I commanded a tank troop on the east Germany border during the Prague crushing. Only the USA brought the Former Yugoslavia to an end. The EU involvement was a disgusting humiliation.
Who refused to let us have ammunition for the first gulf war? Who armed excocet missiles to sink our ships? Europeans. Thank goodness the English Speaking world was on our side.
I am angry about this phoney award.

DerekR said...

I think the best and shortest comment about this nonsense is "Bull**** Baffles Brains"

Rik said...

Just my 2 cts.
How it works out for the major players.
1. EU-public. Neutral, won't do much good, won't do much bad. The Europhiles will be happy but not change their views. The Euro-sceptics will likley even be more confirmed in their views that it is a political Ponzi-scheme. Some neutrals will be impressed, the more thinking part of the neutrals will most likley see it as a bit over the top.
So overall neutral. And doesnot change much re the lack of a platform to carry Europe through the crisis and give it a basis to make the necessary change (how ever that would look) upon. And a platform is more than 50% plus 1. It is a stable substantial majority pro and preferably the cons not to determined against it.
Which is clearly in no way there at the moment. All EU-increasing decisions have the risk attached to them to be reversed one way or another. The times of for-ever increasing transfers of power to Brussels are over, without the peoples having a real say in it.
No 1 on the voters agenda and the voter is desillusioned if not pretty angry and might by voting for populist simply force politics to reverse things. Might take some time but the 'sign of times' is clear.
As a PR excercise (probably what the Nobelites wanted) therefor completely useless.
2. Nobelcomm. Reflects bad on them. They simply confirm that their judgement is lacking in many ways. Too many dubious candidates and not only that but much too early as well and all from a certain political corner.
3. EU-people. They will be pleased and they could use something positive.

Eric Verhulst said...

Notwithstanding that such an award should never go to an institution but to people (they take the real risks), often receiving an award is the preamble to big trouble. Manager of the year and 2 years later the company is in trouble.
This award reminds me of Chamberlain when he came back from a meeting waving a peace treaty letter with Herr Hitler.
How blind can one be? This economic, created by greed and incompetence of our centrally planning governments (national ones as well as the EUSSR) has all the ingredients to result in another war. The party will soon be over.

Ray said...

Ironically this sums up the whole EU process, a committee of unelected people far removed from reality, making decisions only they can see the value in.

Ray said...

Ironically, this sums up the whole EU ethos, an unelected committee totally remote from reality, making decisions only they can see the value in.

peter said...

A brave and justified decision by the Oslo jury. At least much more to the point than the recent peace prize to the US president.
Strange, this agressive and desparate Europhobia of some readers ot his blogg. Is this blogg for EUphobes only?

Ray said...

Sorry Peter, but have you just woken up from a long sleep ?

Anonymous said...


"'the EU' as a trading block has contributed to stability and peace in Europe ..."

simply isn't true.

There is no imperical evidence to support it.

Anyone who really understood the creation of and motivation behind the EUSSR would understand that.

And, for all its faux anti-EUSSR posturing, OpenEurope is either embarrasingly ill-informed about, or is cynically misrepresenting, the true fascistic nature and purpose of the EUSSR.

If the EUSSR is the actor in decline, then OpenEurope is the bought-and-paid-for, studio-owned hack movie reviewer, instructed to make the old guy look good, while sharing a little, good natured dig at him (via "inside humor") with the audience it is lying to.

christina Speight said...

You don't really explain WHY "don’t want to ruin the orgy of self-congratulation currently underway in Brussels." They need a kick in the teeth for ruining a continent, bullying the sufferers sowing discord and can;t justly take NATO's credit for sorting the Balkans.

The Nobel people are increasing wrong-headed - Al Gore to just elected Obama to this!

peter said...

Dear Ryan, you can argue for hours about who really deserves or has deserved the peace prize. I am open to this kind of argument. What disturbs me here is, when in an open discussion on such a question nearly everybody seems to have the same opinion. That does not feel like an open, enlightened discussion any more, rather like a sort of group hysteria.

Patrick Barron said...

NATO has kept the peace in Europe and will continue to do so until the Ameicans leave...then watch out!

christina Speight said...


haven't ypu noticed the near unanimity around today - compared with (say) a year ago thar the eu is a disaster and an evil. if you haven't where have you been?

peter said...

Christina, of course, I noticed this change. But this is rather proof of the one-sided nature of the whole forum. I enjoy thought-through criticism for self complacent Brussels elites; but what you can read here is intellectually not stimulating and rather sad: just angry and emotional Europhobes, celebrating themselves; not open to dialogue; fascistic in their own ways.

christina Speight said...

I/m not a EU-phobe (a euro-phobe perhaps) and if we could make a sensible new relationship I would say 'stay with it', But they won't talk unless under the TEU (Art 50) we first say we intend to leave. So be it if that's what they want - I certainly don't want to be a member of a club that takes that attitude.

However I understand - too well - that because they are doing well out of it and are unelected they find the idea of a nation objecting to their crassly stupid and oppressive actions unsettling. Too bad.

Yes I and many others are angry and emotional. You get that way when you are being oppressed and deceived and lied to. DON'T YOU?

Mally London said...

Peter: I don't know where you get the facist connotation from; Hitler, Mussolini, Franco were facists, this is more than insulting to the Open Europe contributors.

Peter said...

Mally, with "fascistic in their own ways" in wanted to describe the behavior of somebody who takes the floor in front of an audience and gives his radical political assessement with the understanding that the audience will give its noisy approval. The person and the crowd are not interested in dialogue, they are actually disturbed by dissenting opinions. You feel that if you raise your humble voice against the assessment you will be kicked out by the "angry crowd". Yes, it is this impression, that I got, when I read through most of the responses in this blog and yes, this is not a pleasant impression and when I compared it to a sort of fascism, it was not intended as a flattery. If you tell me, that I used the term "fascism" not in accordance with Wikipedia you are right. I did not even mean to do so, I used it in a metaphorical way. On top, the term was introduced before by another contributor.
But frankly I do not give up hope. At least, there are life signs of an infant dialogue, thanks to Christina, you and some other sober contributors!

Rollo said...

Dear Peter, Your views are of course welcome in the debate: go on, tell me how the EU achieved peace? Is it still achieving peace? In Greece, for example? In Palestine or Syria? I am dying to know, and so are many others around the world.

Rollo said...

If what you mean is some sort of recognition for a big name, who never won a prize, but needs a pat on his back in his dying days, Open Europe might have a point; or is it just wishful thinking?

Anonymous said...

The EU is the most democratically deficient political body in the world, it had nothing to do with keeping peace anywhere. If anything the greed of the political class who are the only ones who get anything from it, will create mass civil unrest and possibly lead to another war.