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Many people are likely to feel a bit flustered at the European Union winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee in Oslo announced yesterday that it had awarded the annual prize to the EU for transforming a continent ravaged by war into one of peace. That such a gargantuan, bureaucratic organisation, which has been beset with a slew of problems due to the financial crisis currently sweeping the continent, has been chosen to receive a prestigious prize speaks of a certain lack of focus and a failure to acknowledge the achievements of individuals and smaller institutions. There is no doubt that the winning of the prize will greatly please the architects of the European project and its current leaders, who are struggling to keep the Union in shape in the face of a sustained onslaught from its detractors and due to the multiple crises undermining its institutions, but it’s unlikely to influence the functioning of the organisation because its decisions are taken after taking into consideration the political interests of its member countries.
One of the stinging criticisms against the Nobel committee’s choice came from eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus who said it was “a hoax, a joke” and it would have made better sense if the award was given to a specifically defined personality for a certain unique achievement. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is under intense pressure to take a tough line with Brussels, made no comment about the EU win, while other European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel were full of praise and pride at the win.
The award of the prize would help remind people that the European Union project had peace and anti-war idealism at its core. The launch of the Union helped member states to focus their energies on building economies and not worry about defence and other bilateral rivalries. But if this achievement is to be recognised, it should have come earlier. The introduction of euro has punctured peace in the bloc, and the acrimony that marks the relationship between the crisis-hit countries and their richer members is in stark contrast to the euphoria expressed by Merkel at the winning of the prize. The anti-Merkel protests on the streets of Athens when the German leader visited the city and the vociferous calls of some Greek parties to quit the bloc speak of the challenges facing the Union. Perhaps, the Nobel committee might have been persuaded by the crises threatening the bloc, because the collapse of EU would see an ominous return to “extremism and nationalism”.
Barack Obama is an eloquent example of how winning the prize is no guarantee of future performance of the winner. The Nobel committee announced in 2009 that Obama won the peace prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Since then, the President has made no “extraordinary efforts” to further peace in the world.