The European Union, Controversial Winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize

On October 12th, the European Union was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize causing great controversy. On one hand, the award has been welcomed by people who think the EU did an impressive job at avoiding war on its territory. On the other hand, critics argue the Norwegian Committee should not forget the EU is still struggling with the crisis and the search for a commune identity.

The Nobel Peace Prize is a tradition: almost each year since 1901, the Norwegian Committee awards people or organizations that fight for peace, freedom, and human rights. This year, the European Union received the Prize. As a political and economic partnership within 27 countries of Europe, the EU succeeded in avoiding war on its territory for six decades. Laura Blessing, professor of media and politics at Sweet Briar College, agrees with this decision: “European nations have a Shakespearean history of bloodletting and near-constant warfare. This makes the period of peace with the supranational authority of the EU as historically unusual. They have helped solve a thorny collective action problem. The recent recession and insufficient mechanisms for member states that take risky economic actions have sorely tried the economic ties that bind the EU. But this is almost assuredly why the prize is being given: to register a hope that the EU can endure, and even thrive, despite these recent difficulties.”

But not everybody shares this thought. Looking at the recent events, Carola Haese, a German student at Sweet Briar College, believes that “Other regions would have deserved it more, like the Maghreb”, the region which includes Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. As a reminder, the Tunisian revolution led to the resignation of the ex-President Ben Ali in 2011 followed by democratic elections.

Everything was not perfect for the EU this year. It has been stricken by the economic crisis, and this could restrain its desire to promote fraternity between its countries. The Erasmus program, which makes it easier for students to study abroad, may be cut because of these financial issues.

For Melanie Lower, studying abroad from Spain, at Sweet Briar College, the Prize will not change anything: “People won’t invest more money in the EU because they have the Nobel Prize.” And more, critics see irony in this decision because Norway refused to join the EU twice, after referendums.

This is not the first time the award has led to controversy. Three years ago, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, won the Nobel Peace Prize, ten months after his inauguration. The Committee wanted to recognize his position on nuclear weapons and his speeches advocating peace between Israel and Palestine.

Laura Blessing understands the comparison made with this year’s awarding: “I think both are similar in that they express a hope for future action. But the EU has been a major force for peace for the past 60-something years, and Barack Obama most obviously has not been. I think his winning the prize was politically awkward for a number of people, with Mr. Obama at the top of that list.”

The 10 million Swedish Kronor prize (about 1.5 million dollars) will help the EU’s challenges: to get out of the crisis and to establish itself as an economic superpower, like The United States and China.

Meanwhile, this award has been a trend topic on Twitter since the announcement. The tweetos @OllieRelfe, an English entrepreneur in social networking who is followed by 1,160 people, sees its own interest in this decision: “Seeing as I’m European, perhaps I should now list the Nobel prize on my CV!”

The Norwegian Committee explains its choice here.



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