The EU: keeping the people out of politics

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Brussels is based on the myth that the EU brought peace to Europe.

Bruno Waterfield

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Can there be anything more cynical than awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union? The prize was born out of the bad faith of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish arms dealer known as the ‘merchant of death’. Despite supplying many of the munitions that caused so much death and destruction in the First World War, and owning 90 armaments factories, Nobel was a pacifist – a tradition of hypocrisy that arms-dealing, ‘neutral’ Sweden has maintained to this day. Without any direct heirs, and with a strong desire to launder his name for the sake of posterity, he left most of his vast wealth to fund the awards that would become known as the Nobel prizes.

Although the Nobel Peace Prize is often given to saintly types, such as the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, it also has a tradition of toadying to the powerful. In 1973, the prize was given to Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of state, for his part in negotiating a peace agreement with Vietnam. Le Duc Tho, a Vietnamese leader who was jointly awarded the prize, declined to accept. The war was not yet over, and Kissinger was overseeing bombing raids on Viet Cong national liberation forces in Cambodia. On hearing of the prize going to Kissinger, the American satirist Tom Lehrer quipped, ‘Satire is now obsolete’.

In 2007, the prize plumbed new depths when it was awarded to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In choosing Gore, the highly secretive Nobel committee passed over Irena Sendler, the heroic Polish resistance activist who smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and saved them from Nazi death camps. Unlike Gore who, ‘inconvenient truths’ notwithstanding, cannot be said to have suffered for his beliefs, Sendler was captured in 1943, tortured and sentenced to death. Escaping captivity, she continued her resistance. She died in 2008, the year the peace prize was awarded to Martti Ahtisaari, an obscure United Nations jobbing diplomat sent to mediate in conflicts caused by Western military adventures, such as Iraq.

In 2009, the committee courted major controversy by awarding the prize to Barack Obama, who had been in power as US president for less than nine months. The award came as Obama oversaw a troop surge in Afghanistan. In recent months, Obama has come under sustained criticism for the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan, which has killed dozens of civilians.

The Nobel Peace Prize has little to do with actual peace; it is much more about handing out gongs to the great and good of the world’s international order. It is not really surprising, then, that the EU, after decades of existence, should suddenly have won the prize….

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