The European Union got, on the last Friday, the Peace Nobel Prize at Oslo, Norway. A lot of European and national leaders were very pleased about this distinction as Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, François Hollande, President of the French Republic or Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission who dealt with a great honour for the Europeans we are.
This distinction comes at the moment European Union is at crossroads and facing with the deepest crisis of its History. A lot of people – mainly on the social networks – are wondering on the legitimacy of such an award, as the one got by Barack Obama, the current US president in 2009. For some people indeed, awarding such a prize is quite non-understandable, not to say crazy, a subtle way to restore the reputation of an institution more and more criticized by citizens. At it, it is needed to remind the current political context in which the Heads of State and government seems to be rival and suspicious vis-à-vis Greece and PIGS, because of the Eurozone crisis. We are very far the glorious hours of the EU when some national leaders as Helmult Kohl and François Mitterrand or some European rulers as Jacques Delors (President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995) did not hesitate to put their pro-European convictions forward vis-à-vis a public opinion, not always in favour.
Awarding this prestigious prize to the European Union, the Nobel Committee wanted to pay tribute to the European idea rather the EU as an institution, a way to say in spite of its contradictions, its difficulties and even its failures (for instance, during the Yugoslavian crisis in 1991, preview to the war which followed), the EU succeeded the essential, that is to say, peace. It is often forgotten but the European integration was launched on a hope, building an area of prosperity and peace by and for the Europeans, just after the WWII, a traumatising and killing war for a lot of populations. This idea, imagined by intellectuals as Gasperi, Schuman or Monet supposed Europeans understood and knew each other, condition sine qua none to install peace and trust durably.
The Founder Fathers’ action has been crucial to instil this idea of Europe and make the integration process irreversible and logical, despites the motions of History. The idea of Europe does not go without saying even if it seems obvious and easy to evocate for the current ERASMUS generation, more open to the external world. That probably explains the sceptical reaction of some people regarding the opportunity or not to award the Nobel Prize to the EU, especially at the moment it is accused of all the problems, and all the deficits, democratic mainly.
So, it’s a prize which pays tribute to Europe as an idea but engages the EU as an institution. Like Barack Obama in 2009, it can be dealt with gamble on the future in so far as the European Union shall reinvent itself and not forget its initial goal, peace. A way to say in spite of the crisis the EU is experiencing, Europe as an idea is still indispensable, in the current context especially. An idea it is needed to keep and respect, which supposes a new way for the EU, a more citizen and democratic path.
That’s thus the Nobel Committee decision should be understood and commented on, a counter-current decision if we refer to the current upsets of the EU. Even if this one must do some efforts, its concretisation and most visible achievements (a currency, a piece of legislation, programmes, a Parliament) are the piece of evidence it succeeded the objective targeted by Monnet, Gasperi, Spaak and the others: ensuring peace within its area. That deserves a Prize, even symbolic.