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Musings on the EU's Winning of the Nobel Peace Prize Musings on the EU's Winning of the Nobel Peace Prize
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2012-10-14 10:14:31
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How ironic, while PM David Cameron dangles the prospect of a referendum on leaving the EU, the Nobel Prize committee, composed of Norwegians, a people not in the least interested in joining the EU, awards the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, while in Greece people riot in anger for the visit of Angela Merkel, and in Spain the Red Cross sets relief shelters to assist the poor.

It’s a bizarre choice, to say the least which prompts the question What exactly was the committee thinking? Whom did they have in mind? One would hope that it was not the vast anonymous EU bureaucracy living and working in Brussels, arguing over the size of bananas or precisely how smelly a cheese should be to earn the name Camembert. Nor, one would hope, did they have in mind the euro zone, the 17 countries that share a common currency. What some Germans call “the fit countries” ready to climb the Mount Everest of political-financial maturity under the expert guide of the fittest country of them all: Germany. Nor, one would hope, did they have in mind the myopic politicians currently at the helm of such a union.

One would have to be blind to think that the crisis in the euro zone is solved and that the reward for such a feat is the awarding of the Nobel Peace prize. Some of the EU politicians in their myopia are already interpreting it in such a misguided mode. But to think that is to callously discount the suffering of some of the EU members. It is also to continue to ignore a present and looming danger: those financial imperatives may eventually trump democratic institutions in the EU as a whole. The rise of right wing fascist-leaning political parties in most EU countries points to it.  

One would hope that rather than that the committee had in mind all the 27 countries comprising the EU, the fit and the unfit alike, and the political vision that allows 500 million people to live together in harmony, with human rights safeguarded. As Human Rights Watch pointed out when the announcement was made, the 27 foreign ministers of the EU recently signed an agreement to put human rights at the centre of their negotiations with the rest of the world. The countries that still want to join the EU – Croatia becomes a member next year, Serbia has its fingers crossed – must improve how they treat their own citizens first.

One hopes and prays that it was that which the committee had in mind since it cited the EU for: democracy, human rights, reconciliation. These are ideals which featured prominently when the founding fathers of the EU laid the foundations for the vision of a polity unlike any other on earth. I am not thinking now of the current buffoon politicians, the likes of Silvio Berlusconi, but of genuine visionary statesmen such as Schumann, Monet, Eidenauer, De Gasperi. It would have been nice to mention those men and their vision in the awarding of the prize, thus putting on a human face on the EU and not make it appear as if the award was given to a faceless bureaucracy. It should not be forgotten that it is that vision, more than the financial solvency of its banks and mere economic prosperity which has brought peace to Europe, buttressed by a Western alliance called NATO which assumed responsibility for its security.

So perhaps this was the worst of times to give the peace prize to the EU, but it could also be the best time as a reminder of that the EU should stand for. This time last year, we all bit our nails as the G20 leaders gathered in Cannes to try to sort out the mess in the euro zone. It seemed Europe was teetering on the abyss, that the whole project would fall apart in a matter of weeks. But the crisis is not over yet, and more than an economic crisis, it is first and foremost a cultural crisis which can be traced to the forgetting of the original ideals of the EU founding fathers.

To conclude those musings let me simply remind all EU citizens that the EU from its very beginning was a noble idea and it will live or die as an idea independent of the financial solvency of its banks. I hope the Norwegians, who refuse to join the union, had that in mind. For, if that is not the case, then both the EU and the Nobel Peace prize have been mocked.


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Murray Hunter2012-10-14 11:55:06
Dear Dr. Paparella,

I was personally saddened to see the committee award this year's peace prize to the EU. In scope there is now nothing stopping the committee awarding next year's peace prize to the Sun for shining on the earth for countless years. The Sun is well deserving of the prize.
After awarding the peace prize previously to Dr. Mohd. Yunus with the scandals about his bak's forclosing tactics and the US President Obama for being "a wanna be" the Peace Prize brand may have been damaged.
I beleive the committee also lost great opportunities to make a statement about the future of the world. For example Dr Ambiga in Malaysia for her Bersih movement is changing the polictical landscape here, and of course those involved in the "Arab Spring". Maybe even the vatican should be considered, the dalai lama, and of course a great statement about the crimminality of states in war and administration could have been made through giving the prize to julian Assange and Bradley Manning. You may not agree with my suggections, but the prize should be for individuals and non-governmental regulatory bodies to encourage future mortal directions in the world. But alas I feel the nobel committee has lost its sense of mission. Certainly tere will be (some already are) those saying the peace prize doesnt have the same value as the others now. The Nobel Peace Prize committee has brought our world community level of moral consciousness down one level. This is only my feeling which carrys no weight, but I thought I wanted to share my dissappointment with you.

Emanuel Paparella2012-10-14 15:11:49
Quite right, quite right Dr. Hunter, the Nobel Prize Committee is alas another human institution and, like other human institutions, has made its share of mistakes. I still remember the dismay I felt when the Nobel prize for peace was awarded to Dr. Kissinger, otherwise known among some groups as “the mad bomber.”

This time around though, more than dismay or disappointment I felt the irony and incongruity of the choice. That is why I ended the musing with the paradox announced at the beginning of a tale of two cities: “it was the worst of times, it was the best of times.”

What is currently in place are two visions of Europe: one is the idealistic transparent one of the founding fathers based on a noble idea, the other is the crass opaque materialistic one of the bankers and the politicians based on purely economic power considerations devoid of the democratic spirit and often buttressed by personal ambition and greed.

One can only hope that the Nobel Committee had the former in mind when it awarded the prize to the EU, or at the very least they had in mind the half a billion people that comprise it. But the people will not be the recipients that will show up in Norway for the award. The people who will show up (and they are already squabbling about it) will be one of the crass visionless politicians who least deserve to be associated with the award and is already interpreting it as a symbol of personal aggrandizement. That would indeed make it the worst of time for such an award. But it is the suffering people who most deserve the encouragement that could came from such an award, as the editor of this magazine Thanos Kalamidas, has well put it.

Unfortunately the prize will be claimed by the undeserving; and such a travesty would not be the first one in history. That is why the visionary fathers of this idea which is the EU should have been mentioned by name as Thanos and myself have done in our individual reflections. Then it would be the best of times for such an award, in the sense that many people will consider a return to the vision and the ideals of the EU founding fathers. That is the conspiracy of hope waiting for its fruition like a seed under snow. Hope springs eternal!

Emanuel Paparella2012-10-14 16:00:03
A footnote:

Dr Hunter, I’ve been musing on your intriguing proposal to award the Nobel Peace prize to the sun next year. Come to think of it, it is not be as preposterous as it may appear at first. Let us consider this: St. Francis of Assisi who is the grandfather of Italian literature, way back in the 12th century begins the first poem written in Italian, the so called Canticle of Brother Sun, thus: “Laudato sii mi Signore per frate sole…” [Blessed be my Lord for brother sun…]. Moreover Dante, the father of Italian literature, ends his masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, with those very words: “l’amor the move il sole e le altre stele” [the love that moves the sun and the other stars]. So, both St. Francis of Assisi and Dante are personalizing the sun and praizing it as the conduit that may lead them to its Creator or the love that moves the stars, i.e., a higher vision than the merely physical scientific approach to the sun would permit. But of course for that to happen, for the Committee to award the prize to the sun and make a modicum of sense in doing it, as Europeans that they are, they would have to remember something about Francis of Assisi and Dante.

Leah Sellers2012-10-14 18:40:01
Dear Gentlemen,
I find the Votes for the EU Forgivable because I feel it was made out of Fear. Fear of the breaking up of the EU, and a continuation of the Warring Past of the European Continent which the EU was primarily formed to cease.
It is hard work to get old enemeies and rival to work together in any kind of Cooperative Effort, especially during times of Global duress and stress.
I agree that it should probably have gone elsewhere for a myriad of Reasonings. But I can also understand and forgive decisions being made out of historical and personal moments of Fear.
As long as those who care to, acknowledege and process through this present decision making process, perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize judges will return to some sort of Balance regarding the Nobel Peace Prize's orginal Intentions rather than the supposed Political Remedy of the Day Machinations.

Murray Hunter2012-10-15 02:12:09
Dear Leah,
Let us hope that what you said is what was in the minds of the committee

Emanuel Paparella2012-10-15 13:39:54
I get your point, Leah, people do strange thinngs when governed by fear, however, if the award was motivated by fear, fear, that is, of the breaking up of the union, then it remains an ironic, even paradoxical fear, given that Norway is one of the countries in Europe which is not only has not aspired to entrance into the EU, has never asked for entrance, and has refused even to consider the idea all along.

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