x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Peace Prize surprise

A Nobel Peace Prize for the EU? Well, at least it makes more sense than giving them a certain other Nobel prize

When it was first announced that the European Union had won the Nobel Peace Prize, many pundits on social media thought it was an error or a joke.

Controversy has often surrounded the prize. When Barack Obama won in 2009, many people noted that he'd not been in office long enough to do anything to deserve it. Henry Kissinger won in 1973, despite his authorisation of covert military operations in Cambodia; Mahatma Gandhi never won at all.

What has the EU done to deserve the honour? Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland cited its "successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights" over 60 years.

Certainly Europe's rebuilding from the rubble of the Second World War has been remarkable. And certainly there have been peace and stability, but that - and arguably the existence of the EU itself - has largely been a product of the Cold War, when the options were peace or annihilation.

The EU grew mainly for economic reasons - as a "common market" to provide small countries some strength in numbers. And, as we know, recent developments on the financial front have been less than glorious.

The real joke would have been if it had won the prize for economics.