Nobel Peace Prize 2012 for the European Union (EU) Part II

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4: Expansion as peace-making

Against a backdrop of economic integration and political cooperation as a tool to promote peace, growth and stability , the EU was open to expanding cooperation to countries in the east. But not without further ado. Countries that wanted to join had to adapt to the treaty basis in the EU. Anything else could lead to too much tension in the union. Specific guidelines for this adaptation were laid down in 1993 in the so-called Copenhagen criteria – requirements that applicant countries must meet before they can possibly become members. In a gradual transition, the countries received help from the EU to overcome problems along the way.

The Copenhagen criteria can be grouped into different main areas:

  1. POLITICAL: stable institutions guaranteeing democracy , respect for the rule of law and human rights and for the protection of minorities
  2. ECONOMIC: a functioning market economy and the ability to meet competitive pressures and market demands in the Union
  3. DUTIES AND VISIONS: ability and willingness to comply with the obligations that come with membership, including adherence to the goals of political, economic and monetary union.
  4. ADMINISTRATIVE: In 1995, there was a requirement that applicant countries must have sufficient administrative capacity – a public administration that is able to implement and administer EU legislation, ie comply with an agreement they have signed.

In several rounds, new countries in the east have received promises and prospects of being able to join the EU. The first and largest round of enlargements took place in 2004. In the next round, Romania and Bulgaria joined in 2007. And Croatia will join in 2013.

Several countries in the Western Balkans are now in the process of ending their membership within a few years. Many would say that this process of adaptation has helped to strengthen the forces in these countries that support the Copenhagen criteria. In this way, the EU can be said to have helped to reduce conflicts . By referring to the Copenhagen criteria, national politicians have been able to steer their countries in the direction of contact and reconciliation between parties that in the 1990s were partly at war with each other. This has promoted stability in the Balkans. According to Dictionaryforall, EU stands for European Union.

Authorities, other political actors and most people have realized that nationalism and the oppression of minorities will make EU membership much more difficult. And the work of adapting to the criteria is still ongoing. Croatia will join in 2013, Montenegro will start negotiations and Serbia has become a candidate country, ie the country now has the opportunity to start membership negotiations. Thus, the Nobel Committee seems to keep its word when it also highlights the EU’s stabilizing role in the Balkans in its award.

5: The neighborhood policy and the enlargement process

Many believe that there are limits to how geographically comprehensive the EU can become, and it is possible that the institutions are now approaching their tolerance limit. The EU has therefore developed a Neighborhood Policy (ENP) where the main goal is to contribute to peace and stability in the EU’s neighboring countries through partnership agreements and financial assistance. There are many indications that the neighborhood policy can be seen as a continuation of the EU peace project.

The Neighborhood Policy was launched in 2004. The aim was to avoid creating new dividing lines between an enlarged EU and the countries outside. The policy covers from the beginning of the EU on the one hand and 16 countries (in the east and south). ENP is a bilateral policy between the EU and the individual partner countries with the aim of ensuring as close integration as possible between the two. In addition, the policy is supported by various regional cooperation initiatives such as the “Eastern Partnership” in the east and the Mediterranean Union in the south.

The ENP has not developed a standard agreement for these countries, but there are still some common features. Central to the ENP is an action plan between the EU and each neighboring country. It specifies political and economic reforms over a period of 3-5 years. These plans build on existing agreements between the EU and the partner country but go further in offering political affiliation, closer economic integration, increased mobility and more people-to-people cooperation.

Through the Neighborhood Policy, the EU offers its neighbors a privileged partnership based on mutually binding values ​​such as democracy and respect for human rights, the rule of law , good governance, a market economy and sustainable development. The level of ambition depends on the extent to which the individual country adheres to these common European values. The neighborhood policy is thus a far weaker instrument than the enlargement process. It entails a reward in the form of membership if the candidates live up to the admission requirements, cf. the Copenhagen criteria.

The big question thus becomes how effective this policy is, when the prospect of membership is not a topic for cooperation. However, the ongoing economic and social crisis in the EU may have weakened the EU’s attractiveness in neighboring countries.

6: EU and external security

The main reason why the EU has been awarded the Peace Prize is that the integration process itself seems to have been peace-building. But the EU also plays an important role as a security policy player outside the continent through its efforts to prevent conflicts and deal with crises around the world. Despite the innovations of the Maastricht Treaty in the field of foreign affairs, the union proved to be paralyzed when violent conflicts arose during the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

At the time, the EU was unable to take action on its own while massacres and acts of war took place in its own backyard. The lack of action became the reason why the EU countries in the Amsterdam Treaty further strengthened the union’s security policy framework. Within this, a European Defense and Security Policy (ESDP / CSDP) was established in 2001 . Since its creation, the EU has carried out close to 30 operations – most of which have been civilian crisis management operations (only 8 have been military or civil-military). In addition, the EU implements a wide range of conflict prevention measures around the world.

7: Peace Prize in times of crisis

There have been various reactions to the fact that the EU has been awarded the Peace Prize. Nevertheless, there is a relatively broad consensus that the EU and the integration process have been central to the historically long-lasting peace on the European continent since World War II. On the other hand, many react to the EU being awarded a prize at a time when the Union is in the midst of one of its greatest crises and when there is even some uncertainty as to whether the EU will be able to resolve this crisis at all. .

At the same time, it can be argued that the state of crisis in itself makes this award extra important for the EU. It can help to lift the gaze and understand what the EU is really about. The award may perhaps serve as an encouragement to the EU and the Member States to continue the work of resolving the crisis through stronger cooperation and integration rather than the opposite.

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