The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 to the European Union (EU). Although conceding in its press release that “the EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee rationalized its choice by claiming that it “wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”
The EU selection follows the path of another brainless choice for the Nobel Peace Prize – Barack Obama in 2009, when he had not done a thing except give lofty speeches and apologia for the United States’ role in the world.
The two recipients have this in common. Obama described himself as “a citizen of the world” and proclaimed the virtues of “global citizenship” to adoring crowds in Berlin in 2007. The Nobel Committee liked what it heard and awarded Obama the peace prize for his potential to elevate transnationalism over American national sovereignty. He has not disappointed.
The EU is all about supranational authority as a counterweight to nationalism. The Nobel Committee apparently believes that the tradeoff is worth it on the theory that the EU has brought peace, democracy and human rights to Europe. The committee has ignored a few “inconvenient truths,” to borrow a phrase from another undeserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore.
In fact, the EU did little on its own to secure peace in Europe. The United States led the Allies to victory over fascism in World War II, played the principal role in rebuilding Europe from the ashes of the war with the Marshall Plan and was the moving force behind NATO during the Cold War. The United States provided the defense umbrella under which the Europeans were able to focus first on building a common trading market and then move toward further integration along economic and political lines.
No doubt, European integration has played some role in the absence of war on the European continent, excluding the Balkans. However, the riots breaking out in Greece and elsewhere over Eurozone-imposed austerity measures demonstrate how fragile the peace may turn out to be.
Moreover, democracy has suffered in the process. Unaccountable bureaucrats and judges in such places as Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxemburg are now empowered to make decisions affecting the everyday lives of citizens in twenty-seven EU member countries, instead of the citizens of each country democratically governing their own affairs through their nationally elected officials.
As Iain Martin, a leading British political commentator and deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph explained:
Of course there are advantages in what they constructed – the single market and easier travel, making the South of France and Tuscany more accessible. But they also built an appallingly designed single currency, a horlicks of an agricultural policy and rapacious bureaucracy determined to stifle the nation state in the name of utopian, unachievable continent-wide homogeneity. And at every turn those driving it looked for ways to outwit the democratic will.
As for the EU’s supposed contribution to human rights, the main beneficiaries have been migrants from Africa seeking to enter a European country and suspected Islamist terrorists trying to resist deportation.
For example, the European Court of Human Rights rejected the Italian government’s use of its coast guard and customs ships to intercept in open sea and “push back” boats originating from North Africa, filled with Somali and Eritrean migrants who were on the way to Italy. Moreover, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe has called on Italy to “keep the country’s borders open” for people in need of “international protection” and to fund their full integration into Italian society.
In other words, under the EU’s interpretation of human rights, Italy could not decide for itself the best way to protect its already overburdened citizenry from being flooded by masses of undocumented, uninvited migrants. This contrasts with the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, which upheld the action of U.S. coast guard vessels in intercepting and repatriating Haitian migrant boats.
Although finally allowing the United Kingdom to extradite to the United States Abu Hamza and several other suspected Islamist terrorists for trial on terrorist-related charges, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that another radical Islamic preacher, Abu Qatada, could not be deported back to his home country Jordan because he might be tortured. Apparently, the EU thinks the human rights of a jihadist, described as “more radical than Osama bin Laden,” are more important than the human right of Britons to be safe from the kind of terrorist attacks he incites.
In a speech to the Council of Europe last January, British Prime Minister David Cameron explained the distorted priorities of the EU’s approach to human rights:
We do have a real problem when it comes to foreign national who threaten our security. The problem today is that you can end up with someone who has no right to live in your country, who you are convinced – and have good reason to be convinced – means to do your country harm. And yet there are circumstances in which you cannot try them, you cannot detain them and you cannot deport them. So having put in place every possible safeguard to ensure that (human rights) rights are not violated, we still cannot fulfill our duty to our law-abiding citizens to protect them.
The Nobel Committee made a dumb decision in selecting the EU for its 2012 peace prize, squandering an opportunity to use its peace prize for a truly noble purpose. For example, instead they could have selected two of Nigeria’s prominent religious leaders, who were nominated for the prize this year. They are the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, and the Muslim Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar III.
Nigeria is split almost evenly between Muslims and Christians. With the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, regularly committing atrocities and threatening to forcibly replace the current constitutional government with a theocracy based on Sharia law, Onaiyekan and the Sultan have been working for peace between the adherents of the two major religions in the country.
The Nobel Committee could have provided a morale boost to the two religious leaders for their courage. Instead, it settled for an award to the unaccountable transnational bureaucracy that defines the European Union today.
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