Sunday, October 14, 2012

Peace Prize to the E.U.

For a wide assortment of reasons, I have always considered the Nobel Peace Prize to be the most important.  The reason is simple—most of the arts of civilization are only advanced under conditions of peace.  Even exceptions like the massive advances in physics that resulted from the Manhattan Project during World War II occurred a long LONG way from the fighting.  Trust me, no one was doing advanced physics in Stalingrad between 23 AUG 1942 and 2 FEB 1943.  In fact, war usually destroys civilized life—it is estimated that the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) did so much damage to Germany she didn't recover for 150 years.

But ever since the Nobel committee gave their Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger, I have been amazed at the disconnect between Nobel's will and the folks who actually get the prize.  But recently, the committee has descended into cloud cuckoo land.  There was Al Gore who got one for his C- role as spokesman for the problem of climate change.  And then Barack Obama won for merely not being W. Bush.

This year, they have gone the extra mile—giving an award meant for a person to a bureaucracy that has recently stirred up such rage, folks in Greece are dressing up as freaking Nazis.  Damn Norskies have seriously devalued the Nobel Peace Prize.  This is unforgivable!

Ignoble Prize?

Euroskeptics Call Nobel Honor an 'April Fool's Joke'

By Carsten Volkery in London

Protesters burn an European Union flag in Greece last month.

European leaders greeted the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union on Friday, saying it would provide urgently needed motivation in the debt crisis. But euroskeptics could hardly believe their ears and are already ridiculing the jury in Oslo.

The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union has divided the Continent. While European leaders in Brussels and national capitals are basking in the glow provided by the unexpected honor, euroskeptics in the EU have unleashed their contempt for the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

In Britain, Friday's award has been the subject of particularly heated commentary. Iain Martin, a columnist with the conservative Daily Telegraph dismissed the prize as "beyond parody." He writes that the prize has been awarded prematurely because "we have no idea how the experiment to create an anti-democratic federation will end." Besides, he writes, "daftest of all is the notion that the EU itself has kept the peace." Instead, he writes, it was the Brits and the Americans who brought peace to the Continent.

Members of the House of Commons with the conservative Tories described the decision as "laughable" and an "April Fool's Joke." Meanwhile, the tabloid Daily Mail runs with photos of protesters in Athens burning a flag emblazoned with a swastika during this week's visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and quotes the head of the Tory party in the European Parliament, Martin Callanan, as stating, "Presumably this prize is for the peace and harmony on the streets of Athens and Madrid."

Even the EU-friendly Economist columnist Charlemagne writes, "Hmmm," questioning the timing of the award, given that the EU is currently threatened with a break-up.

The 'Opposite of Peace'

Meanwhile, social networks are filled with wise cracks about how the EU, in light of the euro crisis, certainly wouldn't qualify for a Nobel Prize in economics. And there is also considerable speculation online about which of the numerous presidents of EU institutions will ultimately accept the prize. Some newspapers are even calculating how many pence each Brit would get if the €1 million in prize money were divvied up among them.

The gloating underscores the extent to which the debate over the EU has taken a life of its own in Britain. What is considered to be historical fact on the Continent is disparaged as EU propaganda in the UK. "To be sure, France and Germany have not gone to war since 1945," writes Spectator blogger James Forsyth. "But to chalk that up solely to the European Union is a profound misreading of history." He described the decision in Oslo as "bizarre."

Of course, critics of the EU also raised their objections on Friday in other European countries. In Greece, a spokesperson for the opposition Syriza party said that, because of the EU, "we are experiencing what really is a war situation on daily basis … there is nothing peaceful about it." Meanwhile, the Norwegian Peace Council declared that the EU in the past year has stood for the "opposite of peace." In Germany, the conservative daily Die Welt criticized the "forced political correctness of a jury that has overlooked the unpleasant reality of the euro crisis" in awarding the prize. Finally, Imka Höger, a member of the German parliament with the far-left Left Party accused the EU of conducting foreign policy that promotes "adversity, poverty and war."

Has the EU therefore not earned the Peace Prize? The award does in fact raise a number of questions: How often has the EU looked on helplessly as international conflicts unfolded when it could have done something? And how likely to survive is the supranational idea in light of the nationalism seen in many of the member states?

Regardless, references to recent decisions and disputes seem petty next to the historic success of 60 years of peace, which explains why the Continent is awash in pride over the honor. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is not alone in considering the EU the "most successful peace project in history." In France, there has also been an overwhelming relief to have the EU viewed positively once again. French daily Le Parisien wrote of "revenge" for the EU, comparing its treatment to that by a mean stepmother. "Unexpected, earned, touched, honored," begins an article in Le Nouvel Observateur describing the feelings of Europeans.

Former European Commission President Jacques Delors called the award "satisfaction for the deceased fathers of Europe." And a statement from the Elysée Palace, the office of President François Hollande, said that "every European should be proud to be part of a union that has created peace between long-warring nations."

The British government, though, has not yet commented on the prize. Apparently Prime Minister David Cameron couldn't manage praise for the EU even on this day. Still, in London many commentators concluded that the Nobel Peace Prize was justified. Despite its imperfections, the EU remains a "beacon of hope" for millions of people on the periphery of Europe, commented the generally euroskeptic Times of London. more

Eurosceptic's illness cleared way for EU Nobel prize

Norwegians and EU citizens alike were surprised by the Oslo-based Nobel Committee’s decision to award the European Union the 2012 peace prize. But as it emerged on Friday, the choice might never have been made if it wasn’t for one member’s illness.

Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union could easily be described as out-of-character for the continent’s most eurosceptic nation and one of the few countries in Europe that does not actually belong to the 27-nation bloc.

But that might be because the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee, which decides on the peace prize each year, was missing its in-house eurosceptic this week due to illness. With a less stringent replacement, the remaining members of the group – who have been musing an EU award for some time – saw their chance.

The in-house europhobe in question, Aagot Valle, joined the committee in 2009 with a pledge that she would never allow the peace prize to be awarded to the European Union.

If Valle had been present, she would certainly have vetoed the motion, French Nobel expert Jacob Antoine told Le on Friday.

Instead, Valle went on long-term sick leave at the last minute. She was replaced by Gunnar Staalsett, a former bishop of Oslo and a moderate member of the Center Party. As the most eurosceptic of the group, he was nonetheless a feeble match for the four remaining members, all of whom voted yes to joining the EU in a 1994 referendum, and whose leader, Thorbjoern Jagland, is Secretary-General of the 47-member Council of Europe.

While the cat’s away…

Friday’s decision raised questions in Norway over the political ethics of the Nobel committee, which is seen as largely unrepresentative of the general public, 53% of which voted no to joining the EU in a 1972 referendum and 52% of which refused again in 1994.

“The award of the prize will stir a massive controversy in Norway,” Kristian Berg Harpviken, head of the Oslo-based Peace Research Institute, told Reuters on Friday. “Many politicians here would see this as undue meddling in the internal affairs of Norway by the Nobel Committee.”

The choice also prompted calls for a review of how the committee that chooses the laureates is appointed. Norwegian Nobel Committee members, who have been deciding on the peace prize winner for well over a century, are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament through a representative vote. 
But some parliamentarians deem the system biased.

“The Nobel Committee shows itself as being out of step with the Norwegian people,” said Akhtar Chaudhry, a vice-president of parliament and a member of the Socialist Party, which opposes EU membership for Norway. “The Norwegian people have rejected the EU as a concept, but yet we reward it with a Nobel Peace Prize,” he told Reuters.

Loaded with oil and gas, Norway has prospered alongside its European neighbours, with only 3% unemployment and some of the highest living standards on the continent.

Valle, whose voice would have been instrumental in this year’s choice of 231 candidates, has yet to comment on Friday’s announcement. Her husband, Yngve Seteraas, told Reuters that she had “nothing to do with the prize”. He also dismissed rumours that she had decided to quit the committee. more

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