By Tenzin Jamyang
Notwithstanding the financial crisis and recent regional dissensions that the European Union is trying to control and reform, the Nobel Foundation has unanimously awarded the EU its prestigious Peace Prize.
Thorbjon Jagland, the chairman of the Nobel committee, made the announcement in Oslo, Norway on October 12. He offered these reasons for why the EU won the Prize this year: reconciliation between Germany and France; the incorporation of Greece, Spain and Portugal into the EU, thereby propagating democracy; the end of the “division between East and West [parts of Europe]”; and the recent initiation of Croatia into the EU, which opens up similar opportunities for other Balkan countries.
Although the committee acknowledges that “the EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest,” the decision was made regardless, honoring the
EU’s “successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”
In the United States, the event was not widely covered in in the media. However, to the citizens of the EU, this announcement elicited reaction—British euroskeptics and Greek “anarchists” voicing the strongest protests—that range from confusion to cynicism to just plain mockery.
Critics were swift to point out that the provenance of the confederation, European Coal and Steel Community, had less to do with the grandiose ideologies of peace, democracy and human rights, for which the EU garnered much accolades from the Nobel Committee, but was in effect a commercial drive to ensure a secure ownership of steel and coal—two crucial raw materials for natives—amongst their initial members.
Countering the committee’s appraisal of the EU’s hand in reforming the Balkan states, Nigel Farage, the United Kingdom Independence Party leader, said, “I thought it was a joke. I thought it must be April 1. The timing is absolutely bizarre. And, anyway, what has kept the peace in Europe since 1945 is not a bunch of overpaid bureaucrats but, rather, [NATO], with no small contribution by the United States.”
Farage also brought people’s attention to the coincidence of the Prize announcement and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tour in Athens.
Merkel was greeted there by angry Athenians in different forms of Swastika-printed gears to symbolize the authoritarian austerity policy that Germany is trying to impose on the indebted countries of the Euro-Zone.
Following the political bifurcation in Greece on the issue of bailout, Catalunia is also threatening to detach itself from Spain, thus their plausible exit from the EU posing a threat to the more privileged group of EU governments.
Many have taken on the task of deciphering the Nobel Foundation’s “intention” behind such an act, especially in the light that the Norwegian government itself has twice rejected the EU invitation for membership.
The unanimity of the selection was further called into question as it was later revealed that one of the five committee members involved in such decision makings was on a “sick-leave” and replaced by a new member—possibly someone more compliant than the one he has replaced.
As Prime Minister of Norway, Jagland led the team who lobbied for Norwegian membership in the EU.
The award will be up for grabs from anyone representing the European Union on Dec. 10.
However, there is already a non-decision, as the leaders of the European Parliament, European Council and the European Commission have all expressed their desire to be a part of this prominence.
As for the prize money of 1,354,045 euros, there hasn’t been any conclusion as to whether to distribute the amount equally among 502,489,143 inhabitants of the EU, thus incurring 0.0027 euros per citizen, or to have Greece keep the entire check.
Despite all the cynicism and skepticism, a great relief can still be drawn from the evasion of a greater irony of EU being awarded the Nobel Prize.