Has the Nobel Prize Committee Ignored the European Elephant in the Room?

Dave Scotford 

Image © Horia Varlan

The European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after they were credited with six decades of work in advancing peace and stability across the region. While announcing the decision, the Norwegian prize jury praised the union’s “advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights.”

Senior leaders within the EU are overjoyed with the decision and avid supporters of the union are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief. Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, said the award recognized the EU’s work as “the biggest peacemaker in history,” and Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso said that it was “a tremendous honour.”

Though there’s a problem. To speak frankly, to suggest the last sixty years across Europe have been decades of peace and harmony is simply wrong. Did the awarding committee forget about the violent breaking up of the former Yugoslavia or about the decades of violence which threatened to bring Northern Ireland to its knees? How about the stand off between Greece and Turkey on the island of Cyprus or the vast social unrest which marches through European capitals in the modern day?

Even if the committee acknowledged these conflicts, surely they understood that it was not the EU who played any major role in bringing, or attempting to bring, them back under control. Since the creation of NATO in 1945, it is they who have been tasked with keeping the peace when trouble has flared. We should also remember NATO was built up under the control of American generals in response to the Cold War, and not the EU.

The advancement of human rights is based solely on the European Convention of Human Rights which was first introduced in 1950, 43 years before the EU was founded. Strictly speaking, the EU has only been in existence since 1993 and its predecessor, the European Economic Community was set up twelve years after the end of World War II as a trading organisation.  Read more of this post

The European Project is a Progressive Cause

Andrew Noakes, Chair of the Young European Movement London

Image © David Kellam

Hostility towards European integration is often associated with conservatism, but a surprising number of progressive voters would also like to see Britain leave the European Union. A Guardian/ICM poll in October of last year revealed that 38 percent of Labour and 44 percent of Liberal Democrat voters support EU withdrawal.

Progressives who, like myself, are enthusiastic about the European project must stop taking support from the left for granted. We must make an active effort to persuade social democrats and liberals to re-invest their faith in European integration as an engine for progress in Europe and beyond.

Of course, there will always be critics on the left who see the European project as a capitalist conspiracy, committed to extinguishing our progressive aspirations. But this is an old-fashioned smear and should be exposed as such. Read more of this post

Master Storytellers

Seamus Peter Johnstone Macleod

Image © Saul Gordillo

It is argued that Scottish nationalism under the stewardship of the SNP has come of age. Gone are invocations of the spirit of William Wallace or Robert the Bruce. Less frequent too are references to the barbarity of Margaret Thatcher’s rule without mandate. It is said that romanticism has been replaced with a clear-minded pragmatism. The dominant narrative north of the border is that Scotland’s prosperity would be ensured and increased if it were free to pursue its own economic and political goals, free of control from Westminster.

There is much that supports elements of this account.  The SNP succeeded in presenting a convincing case that a pro-Europe, foreign investment friendly, socially conscious, independent Scotland would constitute a cause for monetary celebration. And it’s not all bluster. Mr Salmond’s high profile publicity trips to the Middle East and China, ostensibly securing bilateral trade and investment ties, are backed up by solid figures that show that foreign money has been flowing into Scotland – at a relatively steady rate – since 2002. The SNP’s dream to follow Ireland’s example of prosperity through low corporation tax, a skilled workforce, and modern infrastructure attractive to multinational companies cannot be discounted merely due to the unfortunate end that met that arc of prosperity. SNP ministers are more likely to be found quoting economic statistics than Rabbie Burns these days.

Scott Hill has rightly pointed out that it is the unionist side that now appear to be the champions of sentimentality and myth. Claims that “we are stronger together” sound hollow and are mostly unsupported by the rationality that appears to colour the rhetoric of the SNP. Melanie Philips does her cause no favours by perpetuating the false notion that Scotland receives a sizeable windfall from taxpayers elsewhere in the UK. Though the truth of this matter depends on which year or years of data are considered and what proportion of North Sea oil is considered to be Scotland’s, it is not the case that Scottish citizens would lose significant funds through independence. Equally, the notion that Scotland would have been bankrupted by having to independently bail out RBS during the credit crunch are grounded more in fiction than in fact. Joint bailouts by groups of states did take place during 2008 and this would likely have happened in the case of RBS given its sizeable presence south of the border. Read more of this post

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