UPDATE 7-European Union wins Nobel Peace Prize

Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:55pm EDT

Related Topics

* EU turned "continent of wars to a continent of peace"

* Foundations of EU laid in 1957 Treaty of Rome

* EU leaders thrilled but some critics say prize is a joke

By Balazs Koranyi and Victoria Klesty

OSLO, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for promoting peace, democracy and human rights over six decades, a morale boost for the bloc as it struggles to resolve its economic crisis.

The award served as a reminder that the EU had largely brought peace to a continent that tore itself apart in two world wars in which tens of millions died.

The EU has transformed most of Europe "from a continent of wars to a continent of peace", Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said in announcing the award in Oslo.

"The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest," Jagland said. "The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU's most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights."

Jagland praised the EU for rebuilding Europe from the devastation of World War Two and for its role in spreading stability after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

While welcomed by European leaders, the award will have little practical effect on the debt crisis afflicting the single currency zone, which has brought economic instability and social unrest to several states, with rioting in Athens and Madrid.

On the streets of the Greek capital, where demonstrators have burned Nazi flags to protest against German demands for austerity, the award was greeted with disbelief.

"Is this a joke?" asked Chrisoula Panagiotidi, 36, a beautician who lost her job three days ago. "It's the last thing I would expect. It mocks us and what we are going through right now. All it will do is infuriate people here."

The prize, worth $1.2 million, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10. It was not immediately clear who from the EU would be there to collect the cheque and what it would be spent on.

CONCEIVED IN SECRET

Conceived in secret at a chateau near Brussels, what is now the European Union was created by the 1957 Treaty of Rome, signed with great fanfare in the Italian capital's 15th century Palazzo dei Conservatori.

The six-state 'common market' it founded grew into the 27-nation European Union ranging from Ireland's Atlantic shores to the borders of Russia.

At the time, the Cold War was in full swing after Soviet tanks put down an anti-communist rebellion in Budapest. Western countries led by the United States had formed NATO, and the Kremlin responded with the Warsaw Pact.

But the EU is now mired in crisis with enormous strains between capitals over the euro, the common currency shared by 17 nations and created to further economic and monetary union.

Politicians in Germany, one of the main forces behind the foundation of the EU, were delighted with the award.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe's most powerful leader, said it was a "wonderful decision". French President Francois Hollande, whose country has with Germany formed the EU's main axis of power, said it was an "immense honour".

Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who reunified Germany and pushed the country into the euro, said: "The Nobel Peace Prize for the EU is above all a confirmation of the European peace project,"

That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Certainly it is quite remarkable to see how unified and peaceful Europe is in the 21st Century, and that did not happen by coincidence. It happened because of the very hard work and dedication of leaders and citizens across Europe," she said.

After centuries of war on the continent the EU has been at peace within its borders, but its effort to stop war in former Yugoslavia - an initiative hailed by one minister as "the hour of Europe" - was a failure.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose Conservative Party is distinctly cool towards the European ideal, had nothing to say about the award, and a spokesman said he didn't think a comment was likely. Ed Balls, a senior member of the opposition Labour Party, remarked sarcastically: "They'll be cheering in Athens tonight, won't they?"

Nigel Farage, leader of Britain's fiercely eurosceptic UKIP party, added: "This goes to show that the Norwegians really do have a sense of humour."

"I FIND THIS ABSURD"

In Madrid, Francisco Gonzalez expressed bafflement. "I don't see the logic in the EU getting this prize right now. They can't even agree among themselves," the 62-year-old businessman said.

In Berlin, public relations worker Astrid Meinicke, 46, was also sceptical. "I find it curious. I think the EU could have engaged itself a bit better, especially in Syria," she said, near the city's historic Brandenburg Gate.

In the home of the peace prize, many Norwegians are bitterly opposed to the EU, seeing it as a threat to the sovereignty of nation states. "I find this absurd," the leader of Norway's anti-EU membership organisation Heming Olaussen told state broadcaster NRK.

Norway has twice voted "no" to joining the EU, in 1972 and 1994. The country has prospered outside the bloc, partly thanks to huge oil and gas resources.

Among those tipped to win was Russia's small Ekho Moskvy radio, a frequent critic of the Kremlin. Editor in chief Alexei Venediktov conceded the prize to a worthy winner.

"We are only 115. They are 500 million. It is an honour (to lose to the EU)," he told Reuters.

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Comments (2)
Kint wrote:
so REUTERS asked 4 people about this among which one is “a beautician” (whatever that is), a 62 years old spaniard and a EU declared hater but REUTERS didn`t find (and look) for anyone who apreciates this decision !

Oct 12, 2012 7:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bettysenior wrote:
I agree that the EU has a right to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize but where we have to look at the EU in its entirety to determine whether it is a true worthy recipient. There are pros and cons in this respect and where the EU did not stop wars in other countries happening when with enough political force it could have done so as the leading economic block in the world. Indeed, it stood back with only rhetoric being heard when the Balkans, Iraq and Afghan wars were intimated/during (prior to military offensives commencing) and where hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died since. Is non-action a part cause and the reason why these deaths happened it has to be asked? That is debatable, but where for an institution like the EU to be awarded the peace prize it has to show first, global leadership in this respect. Indeed, all I have seen over the years in the EU is political intervention backed up by military action and not basically for humanitarian intervention per se, more to do with economic vested-interests. A far better candidate would have been someone or some leader who through their direct actions created human stability and peace I would say. There are not many about but there are a few. But again, if the EU forged a new world order that provided a universal and an equitable future life for humankind, the EU would truly be a peace maker on a global scale. Unfortunately with EU politicians predominantly being interested in singularities privately and not the whole when it comes to Europe, this will never happen. The reason, the usual vested-interests of nations and where this blinkered outlook that is entrenched in nationalism is far more dangerous to the world’s stability than anything else. As global natural resources diminish and those to preserve human life as we know it, major conflicts will ensue unless politicians remove this psyche of self-interested preservation above all else. For we are now moving towards a world that will either exist with humankind at its helm at the end of this century, or will not. It is as simple as that and where we have to find something more important to humans than just the corporate derived wealth of nations – a clear recipe in this century it has to be said for human annihilation and where all wars are economic at their base and nothing else. Time is running out therefore and where our politicians and especially the EU, has to see things as they really are and what future is emerging for us all. Therefore if the EU could forge a new all-encompassing paradigm of human change that was not based upon the accumulation of capital wealth but rather on the premise of preserving the human experience, it would certainly be the front-runner for any peace award whether it was the Nobel Prize or any other. But again, we are dreaming, when our political leaders just see things overridingly from a single perspective of national self-interest even though they are all members of the EU. Change this mindset of deep rooted national monistic values and then the EU would be worthy of the peace prize but where unfortunately presently, universal self-preservation always ultimately prevails. Therefore is the EU worthy – yes for the people it is, but not with the personal and private mandates and mindsets of its leaders I have to say. Consequently, all this has to change for our own good and especially for the long-term socio-economic interests and wellbeing of our very young within the EU now. We have only three decades to change this if the truth be known but where our political leaders are oblivious to this.

Dr David Hill
Chief Executive
World Innovation Foundation
United Kingdom & Switzerland

Oct 14, 2012 1:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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