The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been officially awarded to the European Union.
Since it was announced in October that the EU would receive the award, many — including other Noble laureates — have spoken out against the selection.
But there is one key factor shows why the EU is a worthy recipient: the continued and widespread peace in most of Europe since the end of World War Two.
The founders of the European Union created a economic (and eventually political) structure that has effectively removed war as an option to resolve disputes. As Forbes contributor (and former Business Insider editor) Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry notes, this was unprecedented on the continent:
Here’s the crucial fact: up until 1945, never in its history had Europe known peace. For literally millennia, Europe had always been at war, somewhere, somehow. This culminated, of course, in World War I and World War II, global conflicts that went beyond what anybody had imagined in terms of cruelty and violence, and global conflicts that were sparked in–and by–Europe.
Pierpaolo Barbieri , currently Ernest May Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, makes another interesting point. "Along with demography and economics, ideas have the power to drive history," he wrote in an op-ed published by CNN after the initial announcement. The formation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the subsequent European Economic Community, and eventually the EU, haven't just led to peace between states, but peace within states during crucial transitory periods. For example, the fall of Franco in Spain was followed by a peaceful transition to democracy, while the reunification of Germany went off without massive unrest. Czechoslovakia's "Velvet revolution," and the democratic transitions in Hungary and Slovenia also went relatively smoothly.
This is incredibly important. Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, calls the European peace "an enormous gift to the world." At a panel last week, Kagan stressed that any organization that could peacefully bind a continent that has historically been ravaged by war is deserving of the award.
It's a worthy argument, though some might say that has lost some of its appeal with recent violence in EU members states such as Greece and Spain. However, we can't help if wonder if that violence is the very reason the Nobel Prize Committee decided this year to give the EU the award — a reminder.
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