There’s been a lot of mocking and derision at the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. And I will admit that my immediate reaction was also to mock and deride. But this was unfair, as the prize is, in fact, well-deserved. It’s just badly timed. Twenty years ago—when the TEU was signed at Maastricht—would have made more sense. Art Goldhammer got it right
Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had done anything. The prize to the EU seems like the opposite: a sort of lifetime achievement award (overlooking a few mishaps such as Srbrenica and Kosovo). Europe may be collapsing, but it’s not at war. In this light, the prize, while somewhat pointless, is not absurd.
Liam Hoare, writing in The Atlantic, agrees. Noting the “dismissive, odious, and repugnant” tone of those critiquing the award, he asserts that this
reflects a total failure to recognize and appreciate the historic accomplishments of the European Union — but also the work it continues to do to eliminate economic barriers and foster international and interethnic cooperation, on a continent that was for centuries stuck in a cycle of perpetual war.
David Frum is on the same page. In a tribune in the National Post, he asks, after obligatorily dumping on the EU
So boo to the Nobel committee?
Well … no. Not so fast.
The Norwegians are sending a reminder flare to their continental neighbours: In the throes of today’s crisis, please remember, the Euro may have been a mistake, but the European Union must be preserved. The EU must be preserved not only as the obviously beneficial trading area that it is, but also (yes) as an ideal.
It’s an inspiring thing to visit the German-Polish border and see — not barriers, not legacies of old hatreds — but goods-laden trucks whizzing past as casually as if they were crossing the North Carolina-South Carolina state line. It’s an inspiring thing to visit Alsace and see this territory that was contested in three terrible wars arrive at peace via the simple proposition: If you want a house in Alsace, buy one. Who cares which sovereign delivers the mail?
The European Union presents every member nation with a magnificently attractive vision: A Europe at peace with itself, a Europe of rising prosperity, a Europe in which Europeans can move freely to live and work. When extremist forces arise in European countries — as they are rising now in Greece and in Hungary — they are met with the answer, “But if we yield to these forces, we’ll put ourselves outside Europe. No more right to work in London. No more aid from Germany.” The desire to qualify for Europe has powerfully pulled countries such as Serbia and Romania along the democratic path — and in years to come will exert the same force upon Belarus and Ukraine.
That’s a powerful and precious achievement. At a moment when the achievement risks being lost or forgotten due to a financial fiasco, the parliamentarians of Oslo did well to use their most effective platform to remind Europe and the world of what is at risk.
Tout à fait. But this does beg the issue as to the legitimacy of the whole Nobel enterprise. À propos, Walter Russell Mead has a positive review in the latest Foreign Affairs of a negative history of the Nobel Peace Prize. The author of the reviewed book, Jay Nordlinger, is a well-known rightist, though that does not a priori invalidate his argument. The Nobel committee has awarded the peace prize to so many people who manifestly did not deserve it that one has a hard time taking it seriously at this point. Better to abolish the thing and dedicate the money for some other peace-related cause.