EU Nobel Prize Award: Nationalism Can Make Way for the Language of Peace

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The Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to the entire world. The immediate response to the surprising, not to say weird, decision to award the European Union with the 2012 Peace Prize is that of a raised eyebrow and profound disappointment. If Europe is entitled for the prize this year, than the world in its entirety is entitled to receive it next year.

After a string of failures in recent years, ranging from awarding the prize to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat to the strangest recipient of them all, Barack Obama just after being elected, the Norwegian prize committee made this decision and further lowered the prizes prestige. Awarding an entire continent? And at this point in time? Awkward.

The EU in the footsteps of Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King Jr., Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev - truly great men by any historical standard? The decision to give the prize to an entire continent, instead of an individual, or in the least to an organization that can leverage the prize to promote its noble causes, seems like a betrayal of the Nobel Prize's raison d'etre. Who knew Aung San Suu Kyi before the prize was awarded to Myanmar's brave opposition leader? And how much were her image and ideas furthered by that recognition. Once again, Europe is patting itself on the shoulder – and this shoulder cannot take anymore. The EU is receiving the prize just as its coarse stitches are about to tear at its seams. Perhaps the $1.2 million prize money can be used to bailout Greece, Spain, or Portugal.

But after the shock subsides, one must say a good word on this almost global prize laureate, and the decision to award it. This continent that during the last century bled like no other continent bled before; that in the name of enlightenment slaughtered millions of its citizens, became, despite the difficulties, a peaceful continent. True, the EU is fumbling and is verging on bankruptcy. And it is true that just a few years ago bitter wars were being fought at its backyard, in the Balkans; but still its language became that of peace.

No one foresees a war breaking out within Europe, which isn't a given in our war-hungry world. The prize can also remind us of what was forgotten: France and Germany as allies? The Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, and Hungary are in the camp of the West? Russia is no longer the specter of the world? Who would have thought, until not so long ago.

These lines are written in Istanbul, Turkey, to whose face Europe rudely slammed its doors and which is today flourishing. Let this be a lesson to the prize's recipient: don't close your doors to those standing at your gates. You are now a Noble Peace Prize Laureate - the honor comes with expectations. One of these is that you become more involved in the Middle East, whose dangers threaten you as well.

If the prize is awarded, it can at least serve to light the imagination, also that of our own. A bellicose reality that seemed to be encoded in the continent's DNA for hundreds of years changed its skin in no time, in historical terms, and reinvented itself. Nationalism can make way for union, or at least to an aspiration to union. Economic cooperation, despite the setbacks of the times, can change reality. 

It is true that the dream is still far from being fulfilled, nationalism is once again rearing its ugly head, xenophobia is spreading like wild fire, and the economic woes are threatening; but still it is a union. One that takes action and intervenes in Libya and assists the occupied Palestinians. Now imagine a Middle Eastern union of this kind. Does this seem unrealistic and preposterous? It seemed no less preposterous a generation ago in Europe, the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. 

A European Union flag waves in the wind in front of the chancellery in Berlin Friday, October 12, 2012.Credit: AP

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