Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Well Deserved Award



I know that this is a delayed reaction of mine but after reading a lot of negative responses from several people, including the former Polish president Lech Walesa, who had won the prize in 1983 and after such responses, I couldn't refrain myself from not expressing an opinion on this decision. In fact I felt that Lech Walesa's whole argument of people in the EU getting paid to do the job to be meaningless – that is the case with most Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Some might dismiss this article as 'an article from an ill informed young and na├»ve foreigner' and for all you know, you may be right in doing so.

I was aghast, back in 2009 when the Norwegian committee decided to award the prestigious prize to the US President Barack Obama, only because he was the president of the United States, who had been in office only for ten months, back then and had hardly achieved anything and the only thing he had done till then was that he made a lot of empty promises. At that juncture, it made me wonder about the other potential individuals / organisations who could have been given the prize and there was one very obvious candidate – European Union, an organisation who have been promoting peace in Europe for several decades, unlike Obama's ten month tenure.

I shall not discuss too much of EU's history but today, after six decades of tireless effort, Europe is largely united with the exception of some Eastern European and non-Baltic former soviet nations. EU is almost like a federal country, with 27 states (28 in another nine months with Croatia joining the union). It has most features of a sovereign state such as a common currency(in 17 countries),
visa free access, a broad legal framework with minor differences in individual member states (similar to the United States), even acts as an observer for several similar regional unions and also many other aspects but for a common military.

Europe could've been the epicentre of another world war yet again owing to its proximity to the Warsaw Pact countries but since the fall of the iron curtain, the former communist nations were welcomed with open arms and today, countries like Poland, Estonia among several others to the east of the iron curtain are an integral part of the European Union.

There are several such regional / continental organisations and to take an example regarding such a union, I'd take SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), which has eight member states, with a significantly higher combined territory than that of European Union. However, SAARC, or for that matter, any other organisations haven't achieved even close to what EU has achieved and going back to the SAARC example, it is probably the most insignificant union – all countries have different currencies and it is nearly unimaginable for a national of one member state to acquire a visa of another member state, leave alone free access. This is sadly the case with nearly every other supposed regional union as well.

So, to the question, whether European Union has promoted peace and democracy, the answer is obviously yes. When the Union was formed, it was less than a decade since France and Germany had been on different sides during the WW 2 but today, it is nearly unimaginable to even think about the possibility of the two nations waging a war against each other. The fact that the pre-requisite to join the Union is to fulfil the conditions of Copenhagen criteria would imply that there are certain codes in the country which uphold the values such as democracy and freedom – and many countries have done that in order to reap the benefits of being a part of the Union – a direct indication that EU has promoted peace. But for that, the Schengen agreement along with several other treaties and agreements has ensured free movement of labour, resources and capital within the Union. But for that, there are obviously several other aspects which the EU has achieved and it may not be appropriate to state them all in this article; moreover, these are the two most obvious things visible to an outsider like myself.

This decision by the Nobel committee has attracted criticism mainly because of the timing of the award – at a time when Greece, Spain and some more countries are facing an economic turmoil but what people must keep in mind before making such remarks is that EU hasn't received a prize for economics, it was for peace and it is evident that they've achieved peace, over these six decades. However, to live up to its expectations on receiving this award, there must be an end to this crisis- after all, no economic crisis lasts forever; even the Great Depression was overcome, and incidentally, one of the worst-hit nations (Germany) of that depression is today a member of the Union. This is certainly a challenge for EU which is bound to be met.

In future, I'd like to see the EU becoming a much larger union and perhaps, this may even sound Utopian, but I'd like to see the Union amassing the entire Council of Europe under one banner. It'd certainly take time and effort but it is worth doing so. I've always been an admirer of Europeans and their culture – for they've been the pioneers of most revolutionary ideas and EU is another one such idea, which has set an example for the world.

I'd conclude with the words of the Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo - 'this choice shows that the European project continues to inspire the world today. The European Union was originally the dream of people and politicians in search of peace and prosperity for all citizens. It has become a strong symbol of cooperation and progress. Europe, a continent that was torn by terrible wars, thanks to the European Union is an example for the world of peaceful dialogue and conflict prevention.'

Have a nice day,
Andy

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