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Mixed reactions to the European Union’s Nobel Peace Prize

October 15th, 2012

The most important left and right wing dailies identify the message of the Norwegian decision as a clear warning that the values of a United Europe should be preserved.

Magyar Nemzet’s editorial entitled ’Consolation Prize’ strikes a humorous note. Journalist Gábor Stier writes that even though the decision looks deeply ironic, as the European Union is now at its lowest ebb, potentially prize-worthy subjects do not exactly abound. Even previous prize winners – he jokes – had little merit or wrought more havoc than peace. The European Union has indeed something to show for herself: sixty years of peace and stability, the defence of universal human rights and fostering the inter-weaving of economic ties which present further obstacles to any war. However, he says, the founder Robert Schuman or Helmut Kohl who united the two Germanies and helped demolish the iron curtain would have been worthier recipients, or the prize could have come earlier: in 2004 when the EU decided to include former post-communist countries. On a more serious note, the author remarks that in its present state the EU prompts more anxiety than reassurance with the threat of a break up looming ever larger, while European values such as solidarity seem to evaporate within a “two-speed” EU, best known nowadays for an ever expanding bureaucracy and the foundering models of social safety-nets and multiculturalism. Europe can only become strong again, the author suggests, with strong leaders who dare to abandon “outdated Atlantic ties” and open up towards Euro-Asian cooperation.

Népszabadság, the leading left-wing daily carries an opinion piece in the form of a letter addressed to Nobel Peace Prize-winners. Eszter Zalán says amidst the disparaging reactions it is wise to remember that Croatia will become a member of the EU next year, and so will Serbia “sometime”, abolishing the threat of yet another war between the two countries. Critics are right to reply that the EU is the breeding ground of lobbyists and an immense neo-liberal project where solidarity comes second. It is also apt to remember that every second young Greek or Spaniard is unemployed.  The message the Nobel Committee sent was that Europe is an achievement that must be preserved, she suggests, but this may not keep national political leaders from following their individual interests. A common fiscal policy and a separate parliament for the euro zone do not in fact sound nightmarish any more, while hypocrisy is rampant, with politicians paying lip service to targeting economic growth but are unwilling to contribute to the common pot. The prize carries another message as well: the warning that the alternative to the Union, a revival of nationalism “would bring hell-fire down on the continent.” European voters must understand this even if their political leaders “lead freedom fights” against an allegedly oppressive Europe. Whoever finds themselves in disagreement with this rebellion – she concludes – can be proud of being European and thereby a Nobel Prize winner.

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