Following its week of announcements, having already awarded prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry and literature, the Nobel committee today announced the Nobel Prize for Peace, awarding it to the European Union.
Though the EU itself may currently be in crisis, with much of the eurozone plunged into crippling debt and recession and member states embroiled in a deadlock, the Nobel committee felt that the EU’s 60-year history reflected a true and concerted effort to bring about reconciliation and peace within continental Europe following the horrific events of World War II. In a statement issued by the Nobel committee, the EU was described as contributing “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe,” continuing that even though “the EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest,” the union has nonetheless played a “stabilizing part” to “transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.” The committee added, “The work of the EU represents ‘fraternity between nations,’ and amounts to a form of the ‘peace congresses’ to which Alfred Nobel refers as criteria for the Peace Prize in his 1895 will.”
Formed shortly after World War II, the European Union was founded for the express reason of reconciling warring European countries, such as Germany and France. Successful in its mission, the EU gradually grew from a handful of member states to its present contingent of 27. Announcing the award, Nobel committee president Thorbjoern Jagland praised the EU for its work highlighting the addition of such member states as Spain, Portugal and Greece in the 1970s after their respective authoritarian regimes had collapsed, as well as mentioning the EU’s reconciliation efforts during and after the Balkan conflict of the ’90s.
Reacting to the news, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that it was indeed a “great honor” for the organization, while European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said that it was fitting for an organization that was "the biggest peacemaker in history."
But the award did not come without its fair share of derision or indeed bad press, as even during the prize announcement Jagland alluded to the present eurozone crisis, and Dutch politician saying, "A Nobel prize for the EU at a time Brussels and all of Europe is collapsing in misery. What next? An Oscar for Van Rompuy?”
This is the second time in Nobel history that an organization has been awarded the Peace Prize, with Medicine Sans Frontier being awarded back in 1999.