Five reasons why it was a bad idea to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU

1) The re­porting on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union has been sub­standard in its sim­pli­fic­a­tion of per­spect­ives to a “for or against” binary. It has been as­sumed that a view on the awarding of the prize has cor­res­pond­ingly also been a view on the re­cip­ient: cri­ti­cising the prize is cri­ti­cism of the EU too, and vice versa. This is in­suf­fi­cient, even on a purely lo­gical level. One can be a sup­porter of the EU but a critic of the prize, or the other way around (see below no. 5). The fol­lowing ob­ser­va­tions are made from the former position.

2) Like the Nobel Literature Prize, the Peace Prize rep­res­ents one of those rare mo­ments when an an­nounce­ment be­comes a glob­ally news­worthy event pen­et­rating the ever-​growing wall of com­mod­i­fied en­ter­tain­ment. Just like the Literature Prize can bring to public con­scious­ness lit­er­ature that does not (yet) be­nefit from the mar­keting sup­port of mul­tina­tional pub­lishing houses, the Peace Prize is an op­por­tunity to single out par­tic­u­larly per­sistent or dif­fi­cult con­flicts around the globe and to re­cog­nise the work of the men and women who are trying to re­solve them. Only as an ex­ample, when have you last read about the on­going civil war in Somalia or of the peaceful (not mil­itary) ef­forts to end it? Or about the Colombian armed con­flict? The prize can also func­tion as an en­cour­age­ment to bring the parties to the table as in the case of Northern Ireland. There is no on­going con­flict in the EU, and the EU needs no ac­know­ledge­ment or pub­li­city for the work that it does.

3) According to Alfred Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to a person or in­sti­tu­tion that has done “the most or the best work for fra­ternity between na­tions, for the ab­ol­i­tion or re­duc­tion of standing armies and for the holding and pro­mo­tion of peace con­gresses”. Over the years there has been much de­bate over how con­crete the con­flicts must be to de­serve the Peace Prize. The ar­gu­ment used in fa­vour of this year’s re­cip­ient was that, through its work for in­teg­ra­tion and demo­cracy, the EU has se­cured peace in Europe for over 60 years. Although the in­teg­ra­tion that has been pro­moted through the EU and its in­sti­tu­tions will have had some pa­ci­fying ef­fect on the his­tor­ic­ally bel­li­gerent con­tinent, I dare any so­cial sci­entist show me a veri­fi­able causal link between the EU and peace. There is no nat­ural law that brings about Franco-​German wars if nothing is done, and even without a uni­on­ised Europe, we may still have been in the re­l­at­ively peaceful point at which we are now.

4) Thorbjørn Jagland, member of the Nobel Committee since 2009 and chair in 2012, is Secretary-​General of the Council of Europe. Need I say more: the Council awarded the prize to the Union.

5) Awarding the prize to the EU at a time when Europe is ex­per­i­en­cing its most dif­fi­cult peace­time crises is like a kiss of death. The ab­surdity will fur­ther fuel anti-​European sen­ti­ments and en­hance the sup­port of pop­u­list right-​wing parties who will cap­it­alise on that ab­surdity with sar­casm and cyn­icism. To ser­i­ously think that awarding the prize to the EU was ac­tu­ally be­ne­fi­cial for the European cause is polit­ical naïveté of the most dan­gerous kind.

Panu Minkkinen is Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Helsinki.

  5 comments for “Five reasons why it was a bad idea to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU

  1. Andres
    15 October 2012 at 10:42 am

    Dear Professor Minkkninen,

    Thank you very much for this post. It is re­freshing to read this kind of com­ments on EU is­sues. However, I feel that it would be a great idea for the sake of the de­bate and ana­lysis if you could ex­pand your thoughts on your point “4.“
    As far as I un­der­stood the Council of Europe of which Thorbjørn Jag­land was its Secretary General is a com­pletely dif­ferent in­ter­na­tional or­gan­isa­tion from the EU. In fact the EU has the same re­la­tion­ship with the Council of Europe (coe​.int) as with other in­ter­na­tional bodies like the UN or NATO. Thus, the need to ex­pand your thoughts on how that re­la­tion in­flu­enced the award.

    Thank you very much,

    • Panu Minkkinen
      15 October 2012 at 12:09 pm

      See below, Andres.

  2. 15 October 2012 at 10:43 am

    Although this seems mostly right to me, I am not sure how Point 4 is rel­evant as the COE and EU are of course dif­ferent in­sti­tu­tions (al­though Jagland’s mem­ber­ship prob­ably ex­plains why the (I think more de­serving) COE did not re­ceive the Prize).

    • Panu Minkkinen
      15 October 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks for your com­ments, Andres and Fiona. You are, of course, both right. There is no ‘legal’ con­nec­tion between the two or­gan­iz­a­tions. But power doesn’t really work in that way, does it? There is no doubt that in­di­viduals in the high ranks of the Union and the Council re­spect­ively know each other well through elite net­works. If I had been a high-​ranking of­fi­cial in any ‘neigh­bouring’ or­gan­iz­a­tion, I would have de­clared a con­flict of in­terests and with­drawn from the decision-​making. If the de­cision was even after that made, then at least I could claim that I was in no formal way in­volved. Now it just looks sus­pi­cious and feeds fur­ther into anti-​European sen­ti­ments. Thanks again for the comments.

  3. john bowman
    7 December 2012 at 6:55 pm

    With re­gards, to point four, it is safe to say now that Panu Minkkinen has ef­fect­ively stepped into the arena of politics. Politics my dear friend has a mor­ality of its own. So, here we go. What you said about the former Norwegian Prime Minister in reason number four and sub­sequently in the com­ment sec­tion above is nothing but a smear on a former world leader.

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