The European Union has been announced the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2012. Amidst Europe’s as-yet-unsolved crippling economic backdrop, a heated debate emerged over the validity of the prize.
The 27-nation organization was awarded the prizing for its historic role in "uniting the continent" and its contributions “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.’’
“The EU helped transform Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” Thorbjoern Jagland, Council of Europe Secretary-General, said.
The EU will be awarded $1.2 million on December 10 by the Nobel Committee, a far cry from the bailout funds needed to drag some of its member states out of the economic quagmire.
The unanimous decision was made by a five-person panel chaired by Thorbjoern Jagland, a strong advocate of the EU in Norway.
Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament said he was “deeply touched and honored” by the prize. The last organization to be granted a Nobel Peace Prize was French charity Medecins Sans Frontieres 13 years ago.
Leader of Norway’s anti-EU membership organization Heming Olaussen described the awarding of the prize to the EU as “absurd” to local broadcaster NRK.
The news came 60 years after the creation of the EU’s predecessor organization, the European Coal and Steel Community, which helped rebuild a continent decimated by two World Wars.
"The European Union is in the middle of one of its worst crises, but perhaps it is precisely now the peace and stabilization project deserves a hand from the ’no’ country Norway?" Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said.
Norway, the Nobel Peace Prize’s host nation, refused membership in the EU in 1972 and again in 1994.
The Nobel Committee raised eyebrows and sparked widespread conjecture when it granted the prize to newly inaugurated US President Barack Obama in 2009. Despite having been in office for only two weeks, the committee saw fit to award him “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Nobel Prize: A tale of ignoble peace laureates
One man introduced indefinite detention and expanded the deadly global drone war. Another was the architect of the deliberate mass killing of civilian populations in Indochina. What do they have in common? Both are Nobel Peace laureates.
Gandhi never got one. Al Gore did. In one of the stranger ironies befitting of both Kafka and Orwell, sometimes the makers of permanent war are awarded for bringing temporary peace. Sometimes they don’t even get that far.
With the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize set to be announced in Oslo, Norway on Friday, the shadow of Barack Obama still looms large. In 2009, the committee awarded the current US president "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Nominations for the award are due by February 1, meaning Obama had served as America’s executive for less than two weeks when the Norwegian Nobel Committee selected him. Perhaps it was wishful thinking.
Since then, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, making it legal to indefinitely detain US citizens. There are also the deadly drone wars in Yemen and Pakistan, the war waged in Libya, the Afghan surge and a secret "kill list” revealed this year by The New York Times, which grants a select few American officials the option to mark perceived national security threats – foreign citizens or otherwise – for assassination. Ironic, yes, but they never could have known.
Even attempts for the committee to play it more conservatively have backfired. Last year, the committee decided to recognize three women for their role in a non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. The three women included a Yemeni activist, Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf and her fellow citizen and civil society activist Leymah Gbowee.
On Wednesday, Gbowee publically lambasted Sirleaf for failing to fight corruption and nepotism in Liberia.
Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission even put Sirleaf on a list of 52 people who should be sanctioned for committing war crimes for supporting former Liberian warlord and President Charles Taylor in the late 1980s.
Taylor, who infamously campaigned on the slogan "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him” during the 1997 general election that followed a war that killed over 200,000 people, fortunately did not win a Nobel Prize.
The post-Obama rehabilitation of the prize might not have gone as smoothly as hoped, but the prize’s history is replete with examples of questionable choices, to say the least.
Chief among them was the 1973 prize awarded to North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger. Tho rejected the prize, telling Kissinger that peace had not been restored in South Vietnam. Kissinger for his part accepted the prize “with humility.”
Before, during and after his acceptance of the prize, Kissinger would be implicated in assassination, war crimes and the slaughter of civilians in a large swath of countries: East Timor, Pakistan, Greece, Cyprus, Chile, Argentina, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
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What’s the alternative?
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