The European Union (EU) was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for the peaceful post-World War II reconciliation and for spreading democracy and human rights in Europe.
Now overwhelmed by the economic crisis and increasingly contested, the EU desperately needs to be validated as a useful political entity. While the Nobel Peace Prize strives to achieve exactly that, it might ultimately do the opposite, by bringing into focus the multiple human rights problems that the EU is currently facing without being able to solve. Among other issues, the EU has proved itself unable to defend and promote the rights of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees or to resolve the Roma minority problems that many of its Member States are facing.
Externally, the EU has failed to take a strong stance in conflicts such as the one currently devastating Syria. In 2008, the EU was slow to react to Russia’s invasion of Georgia over the enclaves South Ossetia and Abkhazia, suggesting the Union is not prepared to give a rapid and coherent response when similar circumstances arise. At the same time, the EU has been incapable of ending through peace negotiations some other European frozen conflicts, such the Transnitrian and Cypriot internal wars.
On a different, but just as important note, awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU at a time when many EU citizens from Madrid to Athens are taking to the streets to protest their current economic problems, in part caused by the common European currency’s crisis, suggests a disregard for and an affront against these people’s real and acute problems. It might further fuel their anger against the Union.
The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for the EU as well as the 2009 award to Obama call into question the manner in which the Norwegian Nobel Committee gives its prize. There were many candidates in both years that better deserved this award and that would have truly benefited from its financial remuneration, which they could have used to further advance their work. If it desires to maintain its relevance and respect, the Nobel Committee must avoid similarly compromising choices in the future.
Originally published in EUROPP
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