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The EU or The Cold War as Nobel Peace Prize winner?

December 10, 2012

Today the European Union receives the Nobel Peace Prize. I’ve suggested before, that this represents encouragement to do better in resolving the current conflicts dividing the EU. Such as those between north and south, between the generations, between citizen and state, and between state and sub-national entities/identities.

The EU grew out of a peacebuilding initiative which established the commodity communities of steel and coal. But has it really played such an important role in stopping the French and Germans going back to war as intended? Arguably it provided reassurance to France and others, that German reunification would not lead to a German military  resurgence. Though ironically, it was Mitterand’s insistence on the Euro as the price of German reunification, which got us into the current mess.

I suspect that the EU institutions are nicely designed, intentionally or not, to prevent war. This is because they seem designed to prevent precipitate decisions and actions. The predominant image of the EU is of endless rounds of not-quite-entirely-fruitless meetings, which seldom reach agreement, yet are never quite frustrating enough to cause people to stop talking. Thus Churchill’s “jaw, jaw” rather than “war, war”.

I also maintain the UK’s and the Republic of Ireland’s respective membership of the EU was a more critical enabling factor for peace in N Ireland than is often credited. Getting rich perhaps became more important for Irish on both sides of the border, than righting historical wrongs. Financial transfers helped. And the current resurgence of separatism in Spain was perhaps earlier delayed by EU transfers and other support, post-Franco.

I can’t help wondering though, if the Cold War should not be receiving the laurels today instead of the EU. Surely superpower deterrence and the availability of places outside Europe where proxy wars could be fought, is what gave Europe time to get over the 1st and 2nd world wars, and grow up a little?

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