European Disunion

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The European Union has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with, according to The Guardian, “joy and derision”. I am yet to meet anyone who has anything marginally aligned with the former; mainly because of the Crazy friends I keep, but, also the fact that such a prize is ludicrously undeserved.

How can the EU’s receiving of the award be justified, in light of recent chaos across the continent, modern history, and the failure to recognize the indispensability of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to European and world-wide stability?

Many laud the EU as having been an economic, diplomatic, civilian, aid, and commercial power-house, yet for all these things, does this equate to a central European body being the unifying factor? Before Britain’s 1973 entry into Europe, I still can’t imagine Heath, Wilson, or Macmillan going to battle in Europe again. Even Spain’s tyrannical General Franco, outside of the European Community until the Eighties, did not antagonize neighbours. So, was union essential for total peace in Europe?

Exhaustion, after generations of devastating fighting, is often, ignorantly, hoisted as a reason for stability, lest we forget the tragically similar sentiment post-First World War. Until the Second World War, Europe had been a place of political Pangaea; innumerable wars ravaged the continent many times over. Our kings and queens fought for ten decades; followed by a turbulent interregnum with Napoleon et al, and then rounded off with the two world wars.

Therefore, it has, crucially, been a good thing to bind France and Germany at the waist. After being at each others’ throats for the best part of Europe’s history, it has been a real and tangible triumph for the two biggest countries on continental Europe to simply jettison entrenched hostility over Alsace-Lorraine, previous conflict, and myriad historical antipathies. Whether it is regarding Napoleonic dreams, or rampant and destructive Nazism, both sides have done well to bury past resentments – and stabilize the centre of the continent.

However, the fact that a swing from Vichy-style occupation of France to their current peace is hailed as a reason for the success of union in Europe as a whole is insulting to the peripheral, smaller – and other – players (politically-speaking): Greece, Cyprus, and the Balkans. And this raises the clear question of whether this a union for post-war French and German self-congratulation and mutual interest, or for: everyone?

If it is for everyone, then the Union has been a shameless failure. How can a prize for peace be justified when much of Europe is aflame, with ugly street-fights over EU diktats, a rolling struggle against its government, and violent nationalism re-working the old wounds it had intended to tranquilize?

If purely not for the moment, with this the nadir of post-war European harmony, it is clear the Union needs to be more introspective about its purpose. Why does it exist? And what did its founders want of it? Some would say to preserve the Peace. But they would also be the ones to pen a crude diagram of time on the X axis, and peace on the Y axis: plotting some childish line of progress. This not only fails to address recent issues of toppling the elected Italian and Greek leaders, but also the EU’s despicable betrayal of Bosnia, during the bitter civil war only twenty years ago. A Europe that fails to pacify brutality of such gravity is undeserving of any peace prize.

I grant you, the EU has done good things. Namely for its unaccountable leaders’ wage-packets, and self-esteem; though it also laid down a gauntlet to, at the very least, move on from a past of bloody attrition, and self-defeating conquest. Typical of the (in-)efficiency of the monolithic and cheerless European Union, however, the gauntlet was not seized by itself; but rather, the infinitely more pro-active organization in NATO: binding its members to militarily commit to one another in case of invasion.

Those who were feeling joyous about the EU’s award have been usefully deliberating over who should collect the prize.  Not a few days ago, it was suggested that children should collect the prize on behalf of the beloved Union, and it would certainly be a third-rate joke to say that Messrs Barroso and Van Rompuy fulfil this criterion. Then again, such is the nature of this prize, that a joke seems all the more appropriate.

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