The Nobel Peace Prize 2012…

…goes to the European Union.

What to say? This is certainly an interesting choice. Not so much because of giving the Nobel to an institution (been done before); the most important here is the parallel with current debates on the EU, and also the fact that it actually pushes one to reflect on the European Communities’ nature and record in Europe. Did the European Communities, ushered into History by a 1950s change of paradigm in the cooperation of Western-Germany and France, contribute to “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”? The answer seems obvious. If there is something the Communities have done, it is organizing the longest-standing peace settlement between the main European powers. As to spreading human rights and the like, prof. Alyson Bailes put it quite well in a conference a few years ago here in Turku: the EU doesn’t need to do anything to act on behalf of human rights; its existence is enough to create standards and norms that radiate from it and influence its environment. The Communities have many defaults and shortcomings, like anything born of human agency. But on the whole they facilitated and still incarnate an unprecedentedly long period of economic prosperity and political stability for the states of Western Europe. Many of the Communities’ defaults also come from the member-states themselves, which still hold the biggest share of power inside the system.

This being said, there is also an argument to be made for the Communities merely being one pattern through which this pacification of the European continent proceeded. For every Desmond Dinan who writes that the European Communities were the main instrument in “fundamentally recasting” Europe, there will be a Tony Judt to write that the European Communities merely constituted an organized answer to Cold War pressures that weighted on Europe and effectively “neutralized” it.  Judt goes on writing that, however, responses to these pressures were the European leaders’ making.

What such an announcement should do is opening in countries like Finland a space for debate on the nature of European Integration. In a Finnish setting, it is a formidable opportunity for discussion on the EU of another kind than the one we see at the moment. There is no need for  laudatory monologues on the EU’s qualities or pro-European brainwashing. There is, however, a need for sober appreciations of European Integration as a 60-years old political, economic and social process that irremediably shaped the History of Europe’s peoples – Finland included. Debates that wouldn’t consider the History of European Integration as a distant rumbling unrelated to the Finns’ collective historical experiences, but as an integral part of the History of this country. Debates that would go beyond the Opportunity/Threat opposition and look into the nature of the process, its causes and consequences. Everybody here is quick to react to the slightest mistake proffered abroad about the Winter War or Urho Kekkonen, but the goofiest things are regularly set in print concerning European Integration and its History. Of course the problem is that large parts of this History happened way beyond any possibility for Finland to influence it, but is it a reason to ignore large parts of what we collectively know about European Integration?

Edit: Article in Le Monde on the prize (French). Interesting because of Antoine Jacob’s interview and some highlights on the decision. Jacob is the long-term correspondent in the Nordic Countries for several French papers, and published a book on the Nobel Prize. Something to keep in mind. The Nobel Prize is part of the debate on Norway’s and the Nordic Countries’ soft power. Article also in the New York Times, where we learn that British euro-skeptics are not pleased.

But enough talking about peace, war, reconciliation, all that jazz: the floor wants to know who is going to get the money and represent the EU in Oslo… We demand gossip!

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