Don’t laugh, the European Union deserves its Nobel Peace Prize. Its faults and flaws are many. Financial strains may yet scupper the whole project.
But the Norwegian judges correctly laud its past achievements. They rightly underscore the value of the cooperation and stability it fosters.
Wags will suggest the EU spend the million dollar prize money on helping Greece out of its recessionary hole. The cash could go towards the building of bridges between the EU’s complacent core and its put-upon periphery. Or maybe the prize could seed an endowment fund for research into the twin plagues of obfuscation and obscurantism.
Hard-nosed eurosceptics will ridicule the laurelling of an institution that seems to spend its whole life stumbling between worthy intentions, bureaucratic officiousness and barely concealed contempt for (and from) the people it purports to serve.
Even those of fairer mind might wonder if the largest European governments can be judged peaceable in the context of recent conflicts fought in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. And some will find it odd that the Oslo committee passed over the architects of the widespread and mostly peaceable Arab Spring.
Sure, Europe needs a morale boost and its leaders will enjoy the shot in the arm provided by the Peace Prize. But it can be argued that the Nobel judges have rewarded past achievements, more than they tried to shore up a project fighting the risk of collapse.
Divisions among European nations seem to run deeper now that at any time in the EU’s 60-odd year history. But compromise - that other name of peace - is the way they try to settle them.
The achievement of the EU, and its forerunners, is both astonishing and singular. Peace - albeit relative and imperfect - accurately describes recent European history. The institutions and the people merit recognition at last for bringing this about. Europe’s Nobel award is a pleasing surprise.