The Tory Eurosceptics and Greek protesters may not like it. But the Nobel committee today named the European Union as the 2012 peace prize winner for helping transform Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace”.
It’s well deserved. Back in 1945, Europe was in ruins after six years of indescribable carnage. That followed four years of the Great War. France, Germany and the Low Countries vowed never again to go to war. The result was what we now call the European Union. It’s far from perfect, and overreached itself with the euro. But it’s infinitely better than what the continent inflicted on itself between 1914 and 1945. (And how appropriate that the prize came the day after David Cameron announced plans to commemorate the Great War centenary.)
It reminds me of a wonderful BBC series from my childhood. The Mighty Continent, narrated by Peter Ustinov, told the tale of how Europe was the world’s powerhouse in 1914. By 1945, it had destroyed and impoverished itself, and ceded leadership to the United States. The European Union may not have returned Europe to its 1914 dominance, but it has been a force for good in Europe and beyond.