Nobel ridiculed as 2012 Peace Prize is awarded to the EU

Oct 12, 2012

Controversial, political, comical: after twice rejecting EU membership, Norwegians give award to Brussels

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THE Norwegian Nobel Committee has been lampooned for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize today to the European Union – a move seen as highly political in a nation which has twice rejected membership of the economic bloc.

Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the committee, said the EU has "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe" and "helped transform Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace".

In an apparent reference to the economic turmoil currently engulfing the eurozone, he added: "This is a message to Europe to do everything they can to secure what they've achieved and move forward."

Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament, said he was "deeply touched and honoured" at the award. "Reconciliation is what the EU is about. It can serve as inspiration. The EU is a unique project that replaced war with peace, hate with solidarity."

However, messages of congratulation have so far been outnumbered considerably by expressions of bemusement and outright disgust.

A number of people have pointed to the irony of the committee being based in Norway, which has twice rejected the idea of joining the EU. Others have professed to be baffled by the timing of the award. The EU is currently struggling to save eurozone countries such as Greece from bankruptcy by imposing austerity measures so painful they are leading to serious social upheaval.

Kristian Berg Harpviken, of Norway's peace research institute PRIO, told The Daily Telegraph: "It will probably be very controversial. Especially in Norway, it will be seen as a very, very political prize and a contribution to the Norwegian EU debate."

But Norwegian public broadcaster NRK suggested now was exactly the correct time to award the Peace prize to the bloc: "The European Union is in the middle of one of its worst crises, but perhaps it is precisely now the peace and stabilisation project deserves a hand from the 'no' country Norway?"

Legal journalist David Allen Green felt the Nobel committee had been over-generous in its assessment of the EU's achievements. "Sixty years of peace and human rights in Europe surely has as much to do with NATO and the ECHR, but EU takes the credit," he said.

The Daily Mail's deputy political editor Tim Shipman referred to the EU's past failures: "To claim the EU created peace in the Balkans is grotesque. It helped shatter Yugoslavia and stood idle at [the] Srebrenica [massacre]."

Others found some humour in the Nobel committee's decision. Tom Chivers in The Daily Telegraph advanced the theory that the Nobel Peace Prize now exists only to "troll right-wingers". He lists Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama as previous candidates who were surely picked only to annoy the Right. "Using the Nobel Peace Prize for cheap laughs has a long and proud tradition," he concludes. "After all, political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded it."

The Guardian's Paul Hamilos, tweeting just before this morning's announcement, wrote: "If the EU really has won the Nobel prize, will Germany collect the prize, then refuse to share it with the Greeks?"

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