Nobel Peace prize for European Union
Today, december 10 2012, the European Union was officially awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“For more than sixty years the European structures have been building peace and reconciliation under former enemies, even when the continent struggles with economic rivalries that can threaten the cohesion and the future of the Union”, said the communiqué in Octobre 2012.
Not only the search to bring France and Germany together after the second world war is taken into account, but also the spread of reconcialiation and democray over a divided Europe during the cold war, and over the Balkans where Europe's recent wars took place. “The Union's stabilising role helped to transform a considerable part of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace”, the Nobel committee president, Thorbjon Jagland, added. The French president, François Hollande, and the German chancelor, Angela Merkel, were present when Herman Van Rompuy, José Manuel Barroso and Martin Schulz took the honours.
What an idea to give the Union a peace prize! It has functioned for years now as the political institutional watchdog of neoliberalism, in which the financial sector got completely deregulated. This financial sector has succeeded from the 2008 crisis onwards to let society pay for the accumulated losses that were the consequence of the financial liberalistic policy. “The system banks are to be saved”, was the general message. In order to achieve this the Union, i.e. the European Council of government leaders as well as the Commission and the European Central Bank, together with the IMF succeeded in forcing the national governments to realise drastic cuts. The countries that live the bigger difficulties are stigmatised by the others – which not seldom could profit from the debts made by the first group – as irresponsible spenders.
Indeed this crisis is putting Europeans against each other both on the level of states as on the level of regions inside a member country. Central governements try to recover at least part of the debts from the regional authorites in their country by in turn forcing them to budget cuts. All over, central governments lose authority. This is why we see a strong increase of the separatistic movements in Spain or Italy, for instance. Just think of the call for a secession referendum in Catalunya, or the proprosal of a macro region in Northern Italy fiscally independant from Rome. Can't we add Flanders to this list?
The Union has become by the very policy it is realising, a conflict promoting structure in stead of a conciliatory one.
The European Union is not only an economic power but certainly since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty it has developed as a military power. In order to reach 'military efficient capacities' the European Defense Agency was founded in 2005. With the Lisbon Treaty this Agency gets a legal basis, and at the same time it gains importance through the detailed description of its devolopments. In article 42/3 the Agency's aim is cleraly stated: ”The member countries commit themselves to improve their military capabilities”. This means in other words that the EU countries have to increase their armament. The Agency is to strengthen the “industrial and technological basis of the defence industry”. The intrest of the defense industry is simply legally laid out in a treaty. The extensive description of the EDA tasks contrasts openly with the absense of provisions to regulate the arms trade. Thanks to the powerful position of the defense industry this subject was left out of the treaty, although the Union has a binding Common Position on arms trade with 8 criteria on export of weapons.
One learns from reality that EU defense industry's economic intrest prevail, a consequence of which is the supply of European arms to autoritarian regimes. Arab countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa were in 2009 the main clients with a total amount of 11.67 billion euro. Less than 2% of the requests for exportlicense was refused. Saudi Arabia is the main destination of European arms; in 2009 the Saudi counted for almost half of the European arms export.
It is the Union as umbrella-structure that recieves the prize, but is difficult to see the Union apart from its dominant members. France and the United Kingdom still have considerable arsenals of nuclear weapons – the most terrible weapons in history of mankind –, that even will be mondernised.
Furthermore the European member states have the 'merit' of having changed the European defense into a military intervention policy. Libya showed us what this means. The Khadafi regime had recieved big arms supply from European countries, but was then bombed by a peace-enforcing operation where both France and Britain played a major role. The picture is clear when we see European liberal leader Guy Verhofstad taking this example in his comment on the Nobel Prize for peace: “ it is a shame that we do so little to stop the violence in Syria; Europe should take the lead in order to bring peace outside the union's territory as we did in Libya and Lebanon”.
Special ideas about peace
Making peace with military means on the one hand and commercial, agricultural and armstrade policy which have proven to be desastrous for many countries in the global south, on the other... We have clearly different views on what peace can be.
The Nobel Prize Committee ,too, shows its own specific ideas about peace. A recent prize winner – Barack Obama – emerged as the big stimulant for a comprehensive use of unmanned aircraft aganist civilians, as a moderniser of nuclear weapons, and as someone who thought to solve the Afghan conflict with more military commitment.
Then the choice was meant as support for Obama's discourse for a nuclear weapon free world, but the Committee didn't take into account the big gap between discourse and real politics. Today the Peace laureat is a structure which makes its population poorer, which divides and sets people against each other. Maybe the Nobel Committee wants those policies to be changed by emphasizing co-operation and reconciliation? We fear that such a kind of message was not understood by the Union. Is it that difficult to find other candidates? We can give a long list of many grassroots organisation who work on the field developing real peacemaking initiatives.
Ludo De Brabander and Georges Spriet