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The EU is awarded the 2012 Nobel peace prize for its historic role in uniting the continent, it was announced in Oslo, Norway. Critics, however, slammed the decision. (Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA)

"Is This a Joke?" Critics Slam Decision to Award EU Nobel Peace Prize

Decision diminishes prize say peace advocates with Norway Peace Committee calling on Nobel commissioner to resign

Common Dreams staff

Three years after awarding the world's most recognized international peace prize to Barack Obama, the sitting president of the United States—who at the time was commanding the operations of two foreign wars and overseeing the largest military and intelligence apparatus in the history of the world—the Nobel Committee's announcement in Oslo on Friday that it was awarding the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union was met with befuddlement by many.

Thorbjørn Jagland, head of the Nobel committee, cited the EU's role in stabilizing Europe following the Second World War and its role as a "unifying" force over decades.  Though he acknowledged the economic turmoil sweeping the continent in recent years, Jagland said the committee wished 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 stabilising part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace."

The Norway Peace Committee, however, took grave issue with the decision and went so far as to call on Jagland to resign for supporting and defending the award. The NPC said a statement:

Gran­ting the EU the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 indi­ca­tes its highly poli­ti­cal dimension, awar­ding it to a pro­ject that for the past year has pro­ven to repre­sent the oppo­site of peace. The EU suf­fers from an exten­sive democra­tic defi­cit, with vio­la­tions of human rights along increas­ing social inequa­lity. Awar­ding the prize to the EU illust­ra­tes how the Nor­we­gian Nobel Com­mittee repeatedly appoints reci­pi­ents that are irre­le­vant and who only ser­ves to con­so­li­date an alre­ady well-established socie­tal power structure.

The Nor­we­gian Nobel Committee’s deci­sion does not com­ply with Alfred Nobel’s mis­sion state­ment, which sets out to rew­ard peace acti­vists’ efforts throug­hout the pre­ce­ding year. To the con­trary, the award pro­mo­tes the Nor­we­gian Nobel Committee’s own inte­rests and poli­ti­cal visions. This shows that Thor­bjørn Jagland’s ear­lier assu­rance that Alfred Nobel’s will shall be respec­ted is mere rhetoric.

The Nor­we­gian Peace Coun­cil regards the bes­tow­ment of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 to the EU as a furt­her con­fir­ma­tion of how the com­po­sition of the Nor­we­gian Nobel Com­mittee is overly poli­ti­cal. We demand that the Nor­we­gian Par­lia­ment con­si­ders the appoint­ment of a new com­mittee that inclu­des com­pe­tent peace acti­vists and peace rese­ar­chers with a much grea­ter focus on inter­na­tio­nal peace issues. The Nor­we­gian Peace Coun­cil argues that the head of the Nobel Com­mittee, Thor­bjørn Jag­land, should resign.

Tariq Ali, political commentator and editor at the New Left Review in Europe, told Democracy Now's Amy Goodman that his initial response was to burst to "burst out laughing."

"The Nobel Committee never fails to amuse and dissapoint," he said.

Petros Constantinou, a municipal councilor in Greece who runs a prominent anti-racism group in Athens, in an interview with The Guardian's Helena Smith called the decision “ridiculous and provocative.”

“To give the prize to an institution of war and racism is ridiculous," he said. “It provokes democratic and anti-racist sentiment. With its partner NATO, the EU has invaded countries in the Middle East, not to mention Afghanistan. Its actions have created huge streams of refugees which then flood into countries like Greece and when they get here they not only encounter racism but hostile EU [border] agencies like Frontex.”

To gain reaction from those who may have found the Nobel decision perplexing given the outsized and contentious role the EU has played in forcing devastating economic policies on struggling member nations, The New York Times also went to the Greek street for perspective:

“I think it’s unfair,” said Stavros Polychronopoulos, 60, a retired lawyer, as he stood on Friday in central Syntagma Square, where residue from tear gas fired by the police during demonstrations on Tuesday to protest a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, still clung to the sidewalks.

“The leader of the E.U. is Germany, which is in an economic war with southern Europe,” Mr. Polychronopoulos said. “I consider this war equal to a real war. They don’t help peace.”

Three years of austerity imposed by Greece’s foreign lenders in exchange for rescue funding have seen Greece’s overall economy shrink by 25 percent. Unemployment is now at 25 percent, rising to 50 percent for young people.

"Is this a joke?" asked Chrisoula Panagiotidi, 36, a Greek beautician who lost her job three days ago in an interview with Reuters. "It's the last thing I would expect. It mocks us and what we are going through right now. All it will do is infuriate people here."

And Francisco Gonzalez, also via Reuters, expressed bafflement. "I don't see the logic in the EU getting this prize right now. They can't even agree among themselves," the 62-year-old businessman said.

A piece in Germany's Deutsche Welle, Critics Warn of Watering Down Nobel Peace Prize, explores the question of whether or not the Nobel committee has lost its way or betrayed the original intent of the prize:

Nobel Peace Prize laureates have included statesmen, international organisations, peace movements and human rights advocates. And now the EU. Critics say the prize often fails to adhere to Nobel's original intentions.

Henry Kissinger and the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Willy Brandt and Mother Teresa are Nobel Peace laureates. So are Mohamed elBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Others may deserve the prestigious international award but were never chosen. Quite a few awards, such as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for US president Barack Obama, have been the subject of intense controversy. This year's decision to award the prize to the European Union is regarded by some as equally questionable.

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