People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 47

November 25, 2012


Nobel Peace Prize

For European Union


Yohannan Chemarapally


THIS year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union (EU). The decision was duly applauded in West European capitals but has been greeted with surprise, bordering on derision, in other parts of the world. The prestigious award has been given at a time when the EU is being buffeted by multiple economic crises in its member states. The Euro is under increasing threat as countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain are caught in an economic quagmire. Many Europeans in fact blame the EU headquarters in Brussels for the current state of affairs. Other commentators compared the EU with some other former controversial recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize like President Barack Obama and Henry Kissinger.


Obama was ostensibly given the prize as an encouragement to steer a different course from that of his predecessor, George W Bush. The Peace Prize, instead, seems to have given the American president the license to even outdo his predecessors in his militaristic exploits. Guantanamo Bay prison continues to function while the use of drones has multiplied several times under Obama. His military policies, including the war in Libya, have had the support of the EU.




The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian parliament, while announcing the award, focussed on the historical achievements of the EU, especially its role in promoting “peace and reconciliation; democracy and human rights” in a continent that had emerged from the ravages of the Second World War. The Nobel Committee warned that the disintegration of the EU would see an ominous return to “extremism and nationalism.” The committee recalled the “terrible sufferings of world war two” as well as the three wars fought between Germany and France over a period of seventy years and concluded that “today a war between the two countries is inconceivable.”


Thorgan Jagland, the head of the Nobel Committee, said that “the main message is that we keep in mind what we have achieved on the continent and not let the continent go into disintegration again.” Incidentally, Norway itself is not a member of the EU. Norwegians had voted against joining in two referendums in 1972 and again in 1994.


Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, said that the prize was awarded to all the “500 million” citizens of the EU, adding that the EU had reunited a continent “split by the cold war.” After the end of the cold war, much to the alarm of Moscow, the EU in goose step with NATO started spreading eastward incorporating states which till the late eighties were members of the Comecon and the Warsaw Pact — the economic and military groupings of former socialist bloc of countries. The EU and NATO are today on the borders of Russia. Now NATO wants to station anti-missile batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic. Apologists for NATO, who reside mainly in the US, stress that the entire EU project would have been unfeasible but for the military cover and economic aid provided by the US after the devastation caused by the war.


Eurosceptics, whose numbers are rising by the day on the continent, were either dismissive or sarcastic about the EU being awarded the peace prize. The leader of the anti-EU Independence Party in UK, Nigel Farage, said that the Nobel Committee had a “sense of humour” and added that the EU “may be getting the booby prize for peace because it has not created prosperity.” The British government, which is trying to distance itself from the EU for the last many years, refused to comment about the award, but the leader of the British Conservative Party in the European Parliament, Martin Callanan, said that by giving the prize to the EU, the Nobel Committee had “undermined the excellent work of the other deserving winners of the prize.”




Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976, has been critical of the choice this year. She said that the EU does not meet the criteria set out by Alfred Nobel who had said that the prize he instituted should go to those who work for “fraternity among nations” and “abolition and reduction of standing armies.” Maguire pointed out that the EU “imposes severe austerity measures” upon many of its own member countries while simultaneously supporting the growing militarisation of Europe by its support for the US military and for NATO. She also underlined the double standards adopted by the EU on human rights issues.


“Instead of upholding human rights for countries such as Palestine, the EU has rewarded Israel with special trading status and huge grants for its military research and weapons, thus enabling it to continue its illegal policies of occupation and apartheid,” the Nobel Peace Laureate observed.


The EU has also supported the inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel. The Palestinian author and human rights activist, Omar Barghouti has concluded that “Europe’s collusion with Israel is too intricate to reduce to sheer Holocaust guilt. Economic influences, US influence, Islamophobia, the prevalence of a security mentality, are all very relevant factors in understanding this relationship.” 


Maguire has demanded that the current Nobel Committee should be held accountable for its lamentable choices of giving “political awards.” She said that the “reform” of the Nobel Peace Committee is now necessary. Thomas Kirchner, a German commentator wiring in the Suedduetsche Zeitung described the EU “as a quarrelling bunch of more or less bankrupt states.” He went on to add that the Nobel Committee “must be careful if it wants its decisions to be taken seriously for much longer.”


In Greece, where the EU’s austerity policies have taken a heavy toll and has given rise to a xenophobic neo-Nazi movement “Golden Dawn,” the reaction to this year’s Nobel Peace Prize announcement has been scathing. The EU’s tough anti-immigrant policies have strengthened right wing organisations. The Golden Dawn Party increased its tally in parliament to 18 seats. In other EU member states like France and Italy, the extreme right has emerged as a stronger force.


The left wing party, Syriza, which came a close second in the Greek elections held in the middle of this year, said it was astonished by the choice of the EU. “The decision cheapens the prize and most importantly harms the institution of the Nobel Peace Award,” the Syriza spokesman said. “In many parts of Europe, especially Greece, we are experiencing what really is a war situation on a daily basis albeit a war that has not been formally declared.” Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of France’s leftist “Front de Gauche,” described the granting of the award to the EU as an illustration of “black humour.” The rich EU states have been extremely reluctant to come to the aid of fellow members who find themselves in dire economic straits. There is even open talk of restructuring the Eurozone, leaving out nations in southern Europe that are currently in the midst of an economic crisis. 




Jagland, speaking in Oslo, did admit that the 28-member EU grouping was currently not in a good shape. “The EU is currently undergoing great economic difficulties and considerable social unrest,” he said. But the focus of the Nobel Committee, he emphasised, was on “the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.” In this context, Jagland harped on the “positive” role the EU played in the Balkans. He conveniently glossed over the EU’s pivotal role in triggering the disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation. Brussels had actively encouraged the Slovenians, Croatians, Bosnians and Kosovars to secede from the Yugoslav Federation. It was under the EU’s watch that the terrible atrocities in Bosnia-Herzegovina took place.


The EU stood united behind NATO as it conducted a war against what was left of the Yugoslav Federation for 78 days in 1999. Factories, bridges, hospital, media centres and even schools were targeted. Thousands of civilians were killed and the infrastructure of the country destroyed. Many consider that war as a precursor to the US led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both these wars had the full support of the EU. In recent years, the EU has supported the NATO war in Libya and is now busy sanctioning Iran and Syria as preparations are underway to launch military attacks against these two countries.


Three days after the announcement of the Peace Prize, the EU decided to ban the broadcast of Iranian news channels, including the widely watched 24 hours Press TV, to the continent. This move, besides being an assault on media freedom, comes on top of the unilateral sanctions that the EU has imposed on Iran. The EU had also stood aside and watched as more than a million Iraqis perished when the country was placed under sanctions after the first Gulf War. The draconian sanctions that are now in place against Iran are already having a very adverse impact on the life of the common man there.


The EU has never taken Israel to task for continuously riding roughshod over the Palestinian. The brutal tactics it has been adopting including turning Gaza into a virtual concentration camp rarely figures in the human rights discourse of the EU. Brussels has not added its voice to growing international demands that Israeli leaders should be tried for war crimes.


The EU has not contributed in a consistent way to promote “fraternity among nations” as Alfred Nobel had desired. In the last several decades, Europe has in fact partnered the US in jointly developing an armed force that wants to aggressively impose its will on the rest of the world. Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have had first hand experience of this. Countries that dare to resist hegemony may be next in line.