Sunday, October 14, 2012

The EU wins the Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Committee surprised a lot of people by selecting the European Union as the recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Klaus Stuttmann catches the sad and ironic side of this at a time when German Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity politics are threatening to wreck the EU in this cartoon of 10/12/2012, which shows the vulture thinking, "Don't celebrate too soon, Europe":

The Peace Prize is a reminder of, as the title of this Michael Hirsh column puts it, The Euro Is About Peace, Not Profits (National Journal 10/12/2012).

Even Merkel made a nod to the fundamental purpose of peace and democracy behind the EU in the statement excerpted on PBS. But in that clip, she barely seemed to be making an effort, because she went on to talk about how it important it was to preserve the euro, when of course it's her way of doing that which is likely to wreck the "European project."

I like Hirsh's description of the origins of the EU:

The struggle to preserve European unity and its principal bonding agent, the euro, is about far more than economics. The peace of the world may be on the line--the legacy of hell that Europe bequeathed to the world by being the birthplace of the worst wars in history. As the chairman of the Nobel committee, a noted Europhile and former Norwegian prime minister named Thorbjorn Jagland, said in announcing the award: “Everybody knows why the EU came, the awful background."

This “awful background” is really the raison d’etre for the 27-nation European Union and the 17-nation eurozone at the heart of it. The 1957 Treaty of Rome that created the EU, and the 1992 Maastricht Treaty that created the eurozone, may have been drily economic in their particulars, but the unspoken subtext was always unmistakably political: Europeans had to unite, if only because continued disunity, or even a loose free trade zone, would keep them at the edge of the abyss. Two world wars, and scores of millions dead, were the ghosts in the monetary union's machine.

To put it more bluntly, everyone else in Europe (especially the French, the original architects of the European Union) wanted to be protected from the Germans, and even the Germans wanted to be protected from themselves, as then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl used to suggest publicly during the ‘90s debate over Maastricht. The German decision to support the European Monetary Union was also a quid pro quo with the French for permitting German reunification: If you allow us, the Germans, to be powerful again, we will hitch our future permanently and peacefully to a larger Europe. Kohl, who became one of the euro's most important champions, was strikingly direct about this. The question of a monetary union, he said repeatedly in the 1990s, was one of "war or peace." [my emphasis in bold]

The PBS Newshour has a good report on it, shown here in two segments, European Union Honored with the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize 10/12/2012:

European Union Has Power to Address Continental Problems 10/12/2012:

Aljazeera English reports on the story including this video, European Union awarded 2012 Nobel Peace Prize 10/12/2012:

Tariq Ali provides a critical perspective in this interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Tariq Ali: EU Awarded Nobel Peace Prize Despite Ties To NATO, Crippling Austerity Cuts 10/12/2012:

In Ali's case, "critical" means critical from a left, anti-European perspective. Ali's criticisms are certainly worth hearing, though I express my own criticisms of today's EU in a different way. He definitely understates the constructive role that the EU and the process of European unity has played in Europe. It was not purely a Cold War structure, which is the impression one might get from his criticism.

If you want to hear an upper-class British rightwing twit version of the anti-European position, you can check out this short BBC video, Nigel Farage on European Union's Nobel Peace Prize 10/12/2012:

If the European Union survives Merkelism over the next year or so and they want to have an EU that can move toward a political union strong enough to have a workable common currency, they will have to re-establish it in some way without Britain as a full member. As long a Britain maintains the narrow nationalist course it has as an EU member for the last several years, and as long as Britain's political elite are committed in foreign policy matters to always be the toady of Washington no matter what, Britain's presence in the EU is a major obstacle to the "European project."

For more on Nigel Farage and the politics of being "anti-Europe" in the EU context, see my earlier post, Anti-Europe Brit gets Germany's Greek proposal right for the wrong reasons 02/02/2012.

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