“A continent of peace”
What sounds like an April fool's joke is real. The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union.
The prize, which in the past has been awarded to individuals such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mother Theresa, has this year been awarded to an organisation of nation states that includes some of the worst war mongers.
The Nobel Committee is full of praise for the EU, saying that it "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe". A lot of the reasoning is focussed on the relationship between France and Germany, who once were regularly at war, but now "historical enemies [have] become close partners".
According to the Committee, the "EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace".
While most of the world's population doesn't really give a damn about the Nobel Prize business (€ 1 million is attached to the prize), giving the peace prize to the EU is a new quality in Orwellian Newspeak.
Most of the mainstream media are either enthusiastic or they alert to the obvious economic problems the EU is facing and the strained relationships between some member states as a result. Some cleverly point out that Norway, where the committee resides, is not even an EU member.
In all this madness, former prize winners Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel appear to be the only ones who have kept a clear mind. They have written a protest note to the Nobel Committee, pointing out that the EU fails to meet the criteria on two key points:
- the EU is not seeking to realize Nobel's demilitarized global peace order,
- the EU and member states condone security based on military force and waging wars rather than insisting on the need for an alternative approach.
It is amazing that it took a protest letter from three former laureates to point out such obvious facts.
So what does a "continent of peace" look like?
While Germany and France haven't been at war in the last six decades, the war theatre has simply shifted. Here is a reminder of some of the more recent wars that have been carried out with the help of or in the name of the EU.
The Balkan wars provided the first opportunity since World War II for the German airforce to go into battle when it bombed Serb targets in 1995. The preceding disintegration of Yugoslavia had been accelerated and pushed by the EU (then the EC) recognising - at the request of Germany - Slovenia and Croatia as independent countries in 1991.
In 2001, the war shifted to Afghanistan, when EU members Britain and France (together with the US and Australia) brought "Enduring Freedom" to the Afghani population. By and by, most of the EU joined and currently 11 EU countries have troops there.
In particular, the German contribution to the Kunduz airstrike in 2009 will be remembered by the Afghani people. Based on a German "intelligence" report, a US fighter plane killed more than 100 civilians when it blew up a petrol tanker that was stuck in a river crossing. The village population had been gathering around the truck with jerry cans to retrieve some fuel for themselves.
Then the war shifted to Iraq, when three EU member states - Britain, Spain and Italy - were part of George Bush's 'coalition of the willing' who invaded Iraq in 2003. Of course, the Rhein-Main Airbase in Germany provided the base for the US war machine.
In addition to the various wars in which EU members participate, there is also an official joint EU military mission: the EU Naval Force Atalanta, whose job it is to hunt pirates around the Horn of Africa. Not those pirates, whose fishing trawlers have plundered the Somali waters in order to supply fish to European dinner tables, or those that have dumped Europe's toxic waste where no coast guard could stop them. Atalanta is only interested in the Somali pirates who are desperate enough to risk their lives trying to enter container ships in order to negotiate a ransom which will feed their families for a while.
And of course, the EU is also synonymous with FRONTEX, its border agency which secures the 'Fortress Europe'. Frontex has since its inception in 2004 probably cost more lives than any other EU institution.
Frontex is mainly concerned with preventing those people who have been displaced by Europe's various war efforts from seeking asylum in the EU. In Greece, Frontex patrol boats have been reported to regularly puncture inflatable boats with refugees – a lot of them fleeing the continuing war in Afghanistan. Frontext is now building a fence along the Greek-Turkish border river Evros. Recently, a lot of the refugees trying to come to Europe via Turkey have been fleeing the war in Syria – a conflict that was hailed as the Arab Spring by European countries not so long ago.
The Arab Spring also took place in Lybia, from which a lot of refugees try to escape and drown trying to reach Italy. Again, they are prevented from reaching safety by the EU's own border agency. Matt Carr describes the situation aptly.
In his acceptance speech in Oslo on Monday, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council said: "War is as old as Europe."