On Monday, the Nobel Peace Prize was presented to the European Union, with the claim that the EU was essential for post-World War II reconciliation and “probably the most dramatic example in history to show that war and conflict can be turned so rapidly into peace and cooperation.” Prize committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland handed the Nobel diplomas and medals to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and President of the EU Parliament Martin Schulz at a ceremony of in Oslo’s City Hall, saying that the EU was instrumental in making “a continent of war (become) a continent of peace.”
As others have noted, given the crisis over the Euro, the acrimony among various states, and the growing sentiment in the United Kingdom over EU membership, there is a bit of an air to the award looking like one of those life-time achievement awards given out at the Oscars for aging movie stars who have had a long career but no awards to show for it. But that’s being a bit churlish. The EU has indeed helped bond a continent together that, in the past, was wracked by wars large and small and seemingly one after the other.
But it’s not churlish to note that all these pats on the back for the EU ignore the role NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, played in establishing the very security conditions for the EU to be born, to grow, and to mature into the entity it is today. Moreover, whatever soft power the EU has wielded in turning former enemies, like Poland and Germany, into partner states, it was little more than a decade ago that NATO stepped in to put an end to the bloody mess in the Balkans—when the EU couldn’t. If the continent is now a continent of peace, a goodly amount of credit should be given to the other Brussels institution, NATO. Or, to put it another way, if Europe is today “whole and free,” it’s largely free precisely because of the efforts of the transatlantic alliance.