Friday, December 7, 2012

The EU and the Nobel Peace Prize: enough celebration?

Next Monday, a good number of European leaders and the heads of the three European institutions will be in Oslo the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, awarded this year to the European Union. (Little parenthesis: the UK Prime Minister has made it very clear he does not want to go and will not go. Fine, but can someone please remind me - and them actually - why they joined in the first place?).
One might question the timing of such decision and, as for most Peace Prizes awarded in past years, agree or not with the reasons behind it. In this case, and not surprisingly, the debate has been tougher than usual. Just do a quick Google search and you will find a sea of comments of all types, well, really of all types?

And here is why I am talking about it: I was very happy with the decision. Not ideal perhaps in terms of timing - this year of all years?- but certainly I agreed with the motivation ("for over six decades the EU contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe"). But, by looking online, it looks like I am pretty much the only one - ok exaggeration for effect! But I did a search on YouTube (EU and Nobel Peace Prize) and the results were dire. A lot of news items from different TV channels, most of which had interviews with people deeply critical of the decision; individuals - and a lot of North Americans puzzlingly- just filming themselves arguing against it; videos with scenes of riots in Athens and Madrid coupled with Nazi Germany shots with the European anthem (Ode to Joy) as the soundtrack; videos proposing alternative winners and videos making fun of the Nobel Committee; do I need to go on? I wanted to put the link to some of these videos but frankly, some of them do not really deserve to have more views, so go and look for them yourself!

I remember seeing the remarks of Barroso, Van Rompuy and the European Parliament President Schultz when they first heard the news and it took me quite some time to find those clips again. But anyway, talking heads with quite predictable comments. Where could I find the EU really making something of this prize for its own image, history, reputation and future? I did not want to give up; and eventually on the EUTube channel (couldn't it come up with a regular YouTube search?), I found this video - produced by the European Council:


A good video; a bit too long maybe, but surely something that shows the intentions and real motives behind the European idea using the voices -  at times quite moving - of the main protagonists, starting with Winston Churchill (yes, a Brit!) and the people of today. This is what needs to be communicated and showed over and over again!

There is one more initiative that I think deserves to be mentioned in relation to the EU, the Nobel Peace Prize and good use of communication tools : the Youth Contest "Peace, Europe, Future", a drawing and writing contest for 8-24 year olds (answering the question: what does peace in Europe mean for you?) organised by the EU institutions, in partnership with the European Youth Forum. The four winners - three selected by a jury and the last by a Facebook vote- will be part of the official delegation travelling to Oslo - and probably more deservedly than some of the hundreds going! 5400 young Europeans have taken part. Has it been advertised in schools? Maybe there would have been more participants. Anyway, looking at what the winners - and not only them -  have written and drawn, the striking thing is how peace in Europe is considered yes, a given, but "like air", something you cannot see but can't live without either. Call me an idealist, but I am longing for this view to be shared by the majority of young people across Europe. And I do love the 'mechanical' drawing of the 12 year old winner!


Bruce McKean said...

I'm old. I read history. I still have sentimental bones in my body (good for me! Life hasn't beaten it out of me!) and the clip brought tears to my eyes. Maybe something about having visited the Royal Air Force memorial last month to be reminded about the "old Europe"...or any Commonwealth War Graves Commission site...or (for me as a Canadian) Vimy Ridge ( That's the alternative and it is bad.

I know the old Europe. I despair of the current political leadership. I cling to the hope of a future EU that will, again, justify the starry-eyed idealism of the 1950s. What do we have is we do not have hope?

Virginia said...

Could not agree more Bruce! Let's hope indeed.