A major talking point in Algeria has been how to interpret the award in the context of the colonial past of a number of European countries, notably France and Great Britain. In particular, commentators have wondered if the decision of the sages in Oslo should not be viewed as officially signifying the Old Continent’s emergence from postcolonial purgatory.
At a time when France remains steadfast in its refusal to examine its Algerian past, while courts in the UK have only just accepted to deal with the sensitive issue of the repression of the Mau Mau in Kenya, you might be forgiven for thinking that with the Nobel Prize, the “wise and virtuous” countries of Northern Europe, which have hardly any colonial adventures to be guilty about, are letting their peers off the hook.
And with that in mind, it is worth wondering when exactly do you become eligible for a prize of this kind, and for how long.
Of course, it has been quite some time since Europe was torn apart by warfare. But have we already forgotten the conflict in the Balkans in which the European Union was unable to impose peace? Surely the United States, which exerted huge pressure to rein in Milosevic’s Serbian regime and restore calm in the region, deserves some of the recognition for this prize.
Here, you have the image of today’s tranquil Europe, in contrast to an increasingly globalised and uncertain “rest of the world”.
People often marvel at how Europeans overcame centuries of war to rebuild and develop regional integration. And there is no denying the success of the European Union when you consider the state of the continent when it all began in 1945.

‘Fathers of Europe’

However, this only serves to demonstrate that the Nobel Prize should have been awarded to the “fathers of Europe”: Germany’s Konrad Adenauer, Luxembourg’s Joseph Bech, the Netherlands’ Johan Willem Beyen, Italy’s Alcide De Gasperi, France’s Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman and Belgium’s Paul-Henri Spaak.
You could also argue that the award could have gone to those who built on their work: people such as Germany’s Walter Hallstein, the first President of the European Commission, or Italian Altiero Spinelli who was behind the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, in 1984, or even France’s Jacques Delors, European Commission President from 1985 to 1995.
By the same token, it would have made sense if Helmut Kohl, Helmut Schmidt and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, were collectively recognised by an award for their contribution to Franco-German relations, because, as everybody knows, close ties between Germany and France make for a stronger Europe.
In contrast, the current generation of European leaders do not measure up to the initial project. Unable to see beyond their national borders, little by little they have transformed Europe into an arena for niggling disputes, which no longer inspire anyone.

Last-chance award

Europe is increasingly an illustration of the limited success of a policy of openness and the bid to transform nation states into a regional entity.
Thus the impression that this prize is a sort of last-chance award to encourage Europeans to come to their senses, save the Erasmus Programme, which is one of the rare concrete manifestations of Europe’s peaceable evolution within its borders, and to work towards a bona fide union.
But there are more important issues. Can you really award a Nobel Peace Prize to an entity, the European Union, with several members (France, Germany, Italy and Great Britain) who figure among the world’s biggest arms sellers? Peace within Europe, but with weapons on sale to the rest of the world and occasionally even for the internal market – i.e. German armaments sold to Greece, which continues to be obsessed with the Turkish threat…
And this interior peace is not as untroubled as it might seem. The weapons may have fallen silent, but another conflict is threatening to destroy the European Union. An economic war between its member states. Consider the example of Germany.
Here we have a country whose surging trade surplus, which is often fueled by a growing share of European markets, is increasingly detrimental to its European partners.
And what should we think of countries that cut taxes to encourage companies to delocalise to their territory?

Defender of ‘right to rights’

We are unlikely to see a repeat of the terrible carnage of the Napoleonic wars or the two world wars. Today it is the unemployed who are victims of history’s torment.
Can the awarding of a Nobel Peace Prize to a union that has become the focus of such social violence be justified? We ought to ask this question just as we will have to evaluate the impact of the liberal policies that have progressively been imposed by Brussels.
However, we should counterbalance this long criticism of awarding the prize with one major positive point. There is no denying the merit of Europe’s abolition of the death penalty and its continued efforts to convince its partners of the need to undertake such an initiative. This is a major argument for those who believe that the awarding of the Nobel Prize is an encouragement to follow its example.
Today, inspite of all its faults, Europe continues to be the world region that is the most ardent defender of the “right to rights”, that is to say the fundamental demand that provides the basis for democracy.
And it is because this “right to rights” is now being threatened by Europeans themselves (the right to work, healthcare for all etc.) that the certificate for the award should carry a prominent “to be confirmed” stamp.
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