In 1950, French foreign minister Robert Shuman envisioned a united Europe where war would be “Not only unthinkable but also materially impossible.”
Now, 52 years later, the European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The EU has come a long way since its predecessor of which Shuman was speaking, the six-member European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The ECSC was created to enable France and West Germany to share resources, making the development of arms difficult and a new war between the two almost impossible.
Today the EU is a 27 member single market governed by many constituent institutions with individual aims. These include standardising law on designated topics through lawmakers in the Commission, Council and Parliament, while also allowing member states the opportunity to opt into more extensive integration, such as economic integration with the European Central Bank and single currency, as well as promoting social integration with borderless travel in the Schengen Area.
The EU’s receipt of the award has been negatively received by many in the UK. The Norwegian Nobel Committee justified the award, stating: “For over six decades it has contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
This description of the EU has been widely refuted by the British press. Many argue that while the EU has drawn France and Germany closer together, it’s done little to advance “peace and reconciliation” elsewhere, one example being Kosovo, where the UN and Nato led efforts to restore peace.
The famed Eurosceptic leader of UKIP and a member of the European Parliament, Nigel Farage, claimed that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU has brought the prize into “disrepute”, pointing out the violent demonstrations in Athens during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent visit as an example of how the EU does not warrant the prize.
The Nobel Prize is rarely awarded without controversy surrounding the decision. Both Barack Obama and Liu Xiaobo are prime examples of this from recent years.
Despite the poor showing of support in the UK, international reaction toward the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s selection has been much more positive. The Secretary General of Nato noted that the EU has “Played a vital role in healing the wounds of history.”
Perhaps the Nobel Committee were focusing not just on the healing of wounds from the second world war, but also the EU’s prevention of a third world war.
It’s difficult to find an example of the EU promoting peace since the organisation’s greatest achievement is an absence of war. Just a few years after two wars ravaged the continent, France and Germany were united when the two countries could easily have deviated from peace, as they had done in 1939.
The EU’s achievements in promoting peace have been recognised outside of Europe with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton stating: “It’s quite remarkable to see how unified and peaceful Europe is in the 21st century and that did not happen by coincidence.”