After Nobel Peace Prize, Can EU Keep Peace?
Is the peace prize a reminder of the European Union’s noble goals? Or is it a joke, as anger and disunity threaten man’s best efforts at preventing another world war?
“At a time when the world is just not that into EU, the debt-ridden European Union of 27 nations has won the Holy Grail of humanitarianism, the Nobel Peace Prize,” the Toronto Sun reported, calling it a “controversial choice.”
The news from Europe has been gloomy for months, as Europe has been embroiled in continuing economic and political crises. Debt-ridden countries like Greece, Spain and Italy have threatened the stability of the euro and the unity of the European Union as a whole. Anti-austerity riots have broken out, further dividing the EU.
“The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee wrote. But they praised the EU’s “successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights,” saying it “has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”
The Nobel Peace Prize has gone to organizations instead of individuals less than 20 times in its 110-year history.
Hungry for good news
Although the choice was deemed surprising by many, “the unexpected dose of good news was lapped up with joy by European officials hungry for something to alleviate their months-long gloom.
“‘We must never forget that … the European Union brought together nations emerging from the ruins of the devastating Second World War,’ said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. ‘The Nobel Peace Prize council, and in fact the international community, are now sending a very important message to Europe—that the European Union is something very precious, that we should cherish it’” (Toronto Star).
The BBC reported on reactions across the continent. On the one side was the best-selling German newspaper Bild, which said: “27 countries, 23 languages, 67 years of peace: we may all be a little bit proud of that.”
“Earlier, Bild expressed a sense of pride in its website banner headline ‘We are the Nobel Peace Prize,’ echoing its exclamation ‘We are the Pope’ after Germany’s Cardinal Ratzinger became the leader of the Catholic Church in 2005.”
On the other end of the spectrum was the British euroskeptic Daily Telegraph, which said:
“To take this decision seriously would be to give the Nobel committee a status that, many would argue, it no longer deserves. Indeed the greatest service it has done is not to diplomacy, but to comedy.”
Britain’s Independent ran the news on its front page with a picture of rioting in Athens and an ironic quote from the Nobel committee: “A unique project that replaced war with peace.”
Man’s best attempts
After the horror of World War I and II, the achievement of 67 years of peace between former enemies is indeed something to celebrate. The architects of the European Union proclaimed laudable goals and have achieved some remarkable successes on a very challenging playing field.
Most previous attempts at uniting the many governments and ethnic groups of the Continent had come by force and have been short-lived. Some have noted that the European Union has come close to accomplishing what Napoleon and Hitler tried to do.
But in the midst of the economic crisis, the carefully woven strands of unity are coming loose. The tireless efforts of leaders and diplomats to patch up the EU seem to be too little and too late. Leaders frustrated by the slow progress of change in the 27-member EU and even the 17-member eurozone are searching for a more streamlined power structure that might result in a smaller core Europe or a less democratic and contentious one.
What’s ahead for Europe?
The architects of Europe likely believed that peace is possible through human effort. However, history has never confirmed this assumption. As the Bible explains, “The way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:17).
What is ahead for Europe? When will real and lasting peace come? See our post “The Future of Europe” for more on this vitally important subject.