Posted on 12 October 2012
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 has been awarded to the European Union for its commitment to peace over more than 60 years.
The announcement was made by Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, this morning in Oslo. The committee praised the Union for its contribution “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".
Jagland said the awarded was not intended to solve the euro zone crisis, although EUI President Marise Cremona said the decision was timely: “This is a good moment to recognise the significant contribution made by the European Union to peace within Europe and the challenge and responsibility we face in contributing to peace in the wider world.”
The committee drew on past decades to highlight the EU’s role in promoting reconciliation between France and Germany after World War II, welcoming eastern European states as members after the fall of the Berlin Wall and more recently negotiating with the Balkan states.
Ulrich Krotz, international relations professor at the EUI, welcomed this long-term reflection: “At times of fundamental crises – perhaps the deepest since the treaties of Paris  and Rome  and cutting at the very core of the European project – the Nobel Committee has put the overall achievement of the European project in historical perspective.”
“It steps away from the hysterias of the day to remind Europeans and others of the historical dimensions of the Union as a whole,” he added.
A co-director of the European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship, EUI professor Rainer Bauböck said that the committee’s decision reminded Europeans not to lose sight of past achievements amidst the turmoil of the current crisis. “I think it’s very positive because it does send a political signal that euro-scepticism is not the response – we need more Europe in order to get out of the crisis,” he said, referring to discussions underway in the United Kingdom over a referendum on EU membership. Bauböck described the EU as “the most successful peace creation regime in world history,” and today’s decision as “totally in line with what the Nobel Peace Prize should be doing”.
European leaders in Brussels were quick to express their gratitude. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, described the news as “a great honour for all the 500 million citizens of Europe, for all the Member States and all the European institutions”.
“The Nobel Peace Prize Committee and the international community are now sending a very important message to Europe that the European Union is something very precious, that we should cherish it for the good of Europeans and for the good of the entire world.”
President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said the award was the “strongest possible recognition of deep political motives behind our union,” while the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said she was “delighted” by the award which recognised how “historical enemies have become close partners and friends” within the EU framework.
The five members of the Nobel Committee, selected from the Norwegian parliament, voted unanimously for the EU against nominees including a Russian human rights group and bloggers who participated in the Arab Spring. The EU is not the first organisation to win the award; previous recipients include Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations.
The news completes a week of prize announcements, including the Nobel Prize for Physics, awarded on Tuesday to David J Wineland and Serge Haroche, who has been funded by the European Research Council.
(Text by Rosie Scammell)