The European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012. The Nobel Committee justifies the award, among other things. that “for more than six decades, the Union and its forerunners have contributed to the promotion of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. To highlight that the EU has also contributed to peace over the past year – one of the criteria in Alfred Nobel’s will – the committee points out that the EU has helped to strengthen the reconciliation process in the Balkans.
- What does the Nobel Committee emphasize in the awarding of this year’s Peace Prize?
- What is the connection between the EU and peace?
- Does it matter who comes to receive the award on behalf of the EU?
- How does the EU contribute to peace and security today?
There is widespread agreement that the EU has contributed to peace and stability in Europe since World War II. However, some react to the fact that the EU receives the award at a time when the Union is in the midst of a deep political and economic crisis and with a number of signs of social unrest . The international financial crisis has hit the EU hard; it has even been suggested that the crisis may threaten full integration.
2: With the Great War as a thought provoker
The idea of peace, reconciliation and cooperation between former enemies was conceived during World War II. The atrocities of the war had created a strong desire to prevent another great war on the continent. In contrast to after the First World War, the victorious powers considered it particularly important to get Germany integrated into closer European cooperation. By peacefully reintegrating Germany, they tried to prevent a possible German revengeism.
On May 9 (later celebrated as Europe Day ) in 1950, the then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presented a plan with an important proposal prepared by the official and diplomat Jean Monnet . As coal and steel were the most important input factors in the war industry of the time, the proposal was to establish a common infrastructure for such production. This would lead to a new great war between France and Germany not only becoming unthinkable, but also practically impossible. By strengthening co-operation between member states, individuals, companies and states should to a greater extent have common interests, which pointed away from war and conflict. With such thoughts as a backdrop,The European Coal and Steel Union adopted in 1951 and established in 1952.
Another innovative aspect of the Schuman Plan was the institutional framework (decision-making bodies …), which had clear features of supranational cooperation. This framework was to become a model for the later Community bodies . The six countries that joined from the start were, in addition to France and Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries. All six are located in the middle of a historic core area for conflict in Europe and centrally on the European mainland.
The collaboration was gradually expanded and ended in 1957 under the umbrella agreement Rome Treaty. This thus came to include:
- The Coal and Steel Union(ECSC), which already existed
- An economic community(EEC), which was new
- Euratom- a nuclear energy organization that also came into being.
In 1965, the regulations of the ECSC, EEC and Euratom were adapted and subject to the umbrella designation of the European Communities. According to Definitionexplorer, EC stands for European Communities.
By strengthening co-operation between member states at different levels, the European states would become increasingly interdependent , committing to each other and thus reducing the likelihood of war and conflict. It all began with closer cooperation across national borders within the sectors that were central in the production of weapons (coal and steel).
Gradually, the co-operation was expanded: Economic co-operation in more and more subject areas and increased trade between the member countries were to contribute to integration and peaceful coexistence . This has also been the case – because there has been no war between the first six or other member states of the EC / EU, which have come about later. The creation of the internal market (1993) and a common currency (1999) can also be understood in such a context.
One element in the integration is the regional cooperation with money transfers over the EU budget from strong regions to weaker ones. In particular, this has consisted of support for agriculture and the development of roads and railways (infrastructure) in weak industrial parts of the EU area. Many would say that the transfers have contributed to development, growth and welfare – that is, factors that can promote peace. Given the financial crisis and social unrest in the EU, it is now a question of whether the EU’s capacity for regional equalization will be weakened – at least in the short term.
3: The Cold War ends, a political union emerges
The fall of the wall and the end of the Cold War led to proposals for further integration and expanded cooperation. The Treaty of Political Union, signed in Maastricht in 1992, was a response to such proposals. Political union covered thus
- the Economic Community(EC) including an internal market,
- a goal of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
- a co-operation on legal matters as well as judicial and police co-operation .
The co – operation in the last two areas was in the first instance an intergovernmental co – operation with demands for unanimity between the Member States as a basis for decisions. In the longer term, the goal was that these areas should also be subject to joint decision-making bodies. This has proved difficult to implement and has only been partially realized.
In addition to deepening cooperation, the member states also decided to continue the purely geographical expansion of the union. In 2004 , a group of former communist states in Eastern Europe joined the EU. These countries had then been through a period of more than 10 years of qualifying for membership. On the basis of this recording, several have pointed out that 2004 could have been a more appropriate time for awarding the Peace Prize to the EU.