Sunday, 17 January 2021

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European press on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union

eunobelFrom “they must have been drunk” to “deserved and long overdue” - the European press on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.

The diametrically opposed reactions of le Monde and Libération, two major French dailies to the European Union winning the Nobel Peace Prize, can be seen as the European Press´coverage in miniature. While the august reference paper le Monde headlined in a front page editorial “A fully deserved Peace Prize”, its left wing competitor commented: “EU misses the Nobel in economics.”

In editorials, Aftenposten (Norway), Der Spiegel, Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, (Germany) le Soir, De Standaard (Belgium), de Volkskrant, (the Netherlands) La Stampa, (Italy) le Monde, le Figaro (France) Die Presse (Austria) and the Financial Times all described the prize as deserved.

Some of the reactions were predictable such as the widely reported overjoyed reactions at EU headquarters in Brussels. "The EU is the biggest peacemaking institution ever created in human history," said Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council. So were the British EU critics´scorn. UK Independence Party´s leader Nigel Farage said : "This goes to show that the Norwegians really do have a sense of humour. The EU may be getting the booby prize for peace because it sure hasn't created prosperity." (the Guardian)

The Times of London, not known for its unconditional love of all European editorialized on the EU: “But here it is, hanging together, just about: and when you glance back over the century before it and the ones before that, you begin to see why the core idea does, sort of, deserve the Nobel Peace Prize..”

On the other hand London Mayor Boris Johnson said Baroness Thatcher should have been awarded the Peace Prize, not the EU. “Perhaps they were drunk; perhaps it was one of those morose Scandinavian afternoons when the sun has sunk and there is no alternative but to hit the aquavit,” wrote the London Mayor in the Daily Telegraph. “And for bringing peace to Europe! You might as well offer recognition to Lance Armstrong for his role in promoting good sportsmanship.”

All peace reasearchers interviewed by the Norwegian daily Dagsavisen said the EU did not deserve the Prize. “The EU has not used its potential to promote peace in the Middle-East, the Balkans or in Afica,” says Peter Wallensteen, professor at Uppsala University, Sweden. “It did not play any active role in the Basque country, North-Ireland or Cyprus.”

Opinion makers used the award of the Peace Prize as arguments for their opinions in domestic political debates. EU membership has twice been rejected in referenda in Norway. Norwegian media noted it was not a coincidence that the chairman of the Nobel Committee was Torbjörn Jagland, the former pro-EU Prime Minister and that he may not have been successful in giving the prize to Brussels if a prominent anti EU member of the committee had not been taken ill and not participated in the vote.

In Germany Financial Times Deutschland said the Peace Prize was a reminder of what European integration did best: “Of course, it is right that the EU is responsible for a number of outstanding peace achievements (…), but now even the greatest EU euphorics are gradually realizing that one should not impose a uniform currency over strongly differing national economies – even if the wealthier member states are willing to give the poorer states money.”

However some see trouble ahead: “And yet, no need to be soothsayer to understand that the fascist drift of Hungary and the risk of sinking in Greece are not only a threat to the EU; but, in their own geographic area, for any short peace on the continent,” writes the editorialist of Ouest France, a regional newspaper in Western France.

In Greece the influential newspapers Kathimerini wrote: “The European Union may have earned the Nobel Peace Prize but it quickly has to find a way to be at peace with itself.” In Denmark Jyllands-Posten welcomed the Peace Prize wholeheartedly:” When Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese and others take to the streets - and when the Greeks even greet the German Chancellor Merkel with Nazi flags - they act historically ignorant and stupid. The EU hinders a repetition of the two world wars and this is why it deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”

But in the much nearer future a decision has to be taken on a classical EU dilemma: who should speak on behalf of the Europeans and go to Oslo on 10 December to collect the Nobel Prize: Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, José Manuel Barroso, the President of the Commission, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz or High Representative for “foreign affairs” Catherine Ashton.

The editorialist of Brussels based Agence Europe has another idea: “Here's a suggestion- why not designate a protagonist for the construction of European unity? Given that Spinelli, Monnet, Adenauer, Spaak and others too are no longer with us, one name would seem to jump out - Jacques Delors.”

Written, UNRIC Nordic Desk

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