The Noble Peace Prize Committee briefly stunned many of its followers on October 12th when it awarded this year’s prize to the European Union. The shock did not last long, as evidenced by the snowballing barrage of sarcasm ever since. Here are some of my favorite zingers out of Europe:
• “The Nobel committee is a little late for an April fool’s joke” – Martin Callanan, member of European Parliament.
• “This goes to show that the Norwegians really do have a sense of humor” – Nigel Farage, member of European Parliament.
• “Nobel prize for the EU. At a time Brussels and all of Europe is collapsing in misery. What next? An Oscar for (president of the European Council) Van Rompuy?” – Geert Wilders, parliamentary group leader in the Dutch House of Representatives.
• “Black humor” – Jean-Luc Melechon former French senator and minister of Vocational Education.
• “Ridiculous, preposterous and absurd” at a time when people in the streets of Athens “are dressing up as Nazis” – Lord Lamont, British MP and former Chancellor of the Exchequer.
• “Hilarious” – Douglas Carswell, British MP.
• “The Nobel judges have gone mad. They have now finally lost it. The biggest myth about the European Union is that it has prevented war in Europe again. What an insult to modern Germany” – British MP and Conservative Party member.
• “They’ll be cheering in Athens tonight, won’t they?” – Ed Balls, British MP and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
• “I just cannot understand what the reasoning would be behind it. In many parts of Europe, but especially in Greece, we are experiencing what really is a war situation on a daily basis albeit a war that has not been formally declared. There is nothing peaceful about it.” – Panos Skourletis, spokesman for the Syriza party, a major political party in Greece.
Adding to the farcical atmosphere is the widely reported turf war that broke out between EU bureaucrats over who will collect the prize. Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, and Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament are all staking out claims.
Trying to solve the childish argument, Cecilia Malmstrom, Sweden’s European Commissioner suggested the prize should be collected by 27 children, one from each EU country.
This puts a new spin on Henry Kissinger’s famous question “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”
Another notable irony, is that the Noble Peace Prize committee is headquartered in Norway, a European country that has not only steadfastly refused to join the euro zone, it also refuses to join the European Union. Like Switzerland, Norway is remarkably stable, both economically and politically.
The current economic and structural problems of the EU that triggered the outpouring of sarcasm are well documented. There is less appreciation of a national disintegration process spreading across the EU.
This year four major regions in Spain have begun independence processes. Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond agreed on the terms and process for a referendum on Scotland’s independence from the UK. In Italy, the Northern League party continues to develop momentum to split away from Italy’s poorer southern half.
Belgium, host to the European Union capital Brussels, has all but disintegrated into 2 separate countries – French speaking Wallonia and the Dutch speaking Flanders. Last Sunday Bart Wever, the Flemish separatist party leader and newly elected mayor of Antewerp, called on the prime minister to go further down the path of splitting the country, declaring: “We’ve reached a point in history where there’s no going back,” and it’s “the end of an era.”
While announcing the Peace Prize award last Friday, Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Noble Peace Prize committee, noted with a straight face, “We are seeing already now an increase of extremism and nationalistic attitudes. There is a real danger that Europe will start disintegrating. “
Maybe it will help to recall that this is the same committee who awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Barak Obama, the one-term U.S. senator who at the time had just been elected president of the United States, after achieving wide acclaim as an inspirational and brilliant reader of the teleprompter.
Just two years earlier, former vice president Al Gore got one for branding everyone who disagreed with him on global warming an idiot.
A more serious question is how much longer will the world pay attention to the so called Nobel Organizations?
While some of their science prizes still make sense, in recent years the highly visible Nobel Peace and Literature prizes are about as relevant as Donald Trump’s endorsement of a presidential candidate.