The European Union was named this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner. My daughter was most confused, thinking the announcement was a joke. Her reaction was that there are so many more deserving possible candidates out there, and then she started listing them off. Good thing we arrived at school where I had to drop her off….
There are many posts lauding or lambasting this decision (for example, see Drezner’s which appeared while I was writing this last week), so why I should I add my voice to those of the critics? Because I have writer’s bloc? Sure, but also because I have long been a Euro-skeptic when it came to European foreign policy. That, and I have to explain my tweets on the matter, including: “I guess the Nobel folks think there really is a European Union foreign policy?”
First, to be sure, the EU has been doing good stuff, and perhaps this is a reward for cementing the long peace. The problem is that it is hardly clear that the EU has really kept the peace in Europe, especially between Germany and France. Which led to my second tweet:
The funny thing about EU and long peace is that it ignores that NATO was designed to “keep the US, Germany down and the Russians out.”
— Stephen Saideman (@smsaideman) October 12, 2012
If you want to give the EU an award for keeping the post-war peace, it should be behind NATO in line.
Second, perhaps the EU is deserving for cementing the transition from post-communism to joyous stable democracy in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Sure, but this is somewhat problematic, as:
(a) the EU’s contribution is overrated, as it let countries in regardless of how well they did on the conditions (including all kinds of democratic criteria); (b) it omits NATO’s role again; and (c) Hungary is making those democratic gains seem just a wee bit temporary.
Third, when the EU has been confronted with a problem of war and peace, people suddenly realize it is a composite of countries with varying interests and commitments and not a single foreign policy-producing entity. The EU failed its first big test when Yugoslavia fell apart. Its recognition of Slovenia and Croatia did not cause anything really but demonstrated that conditions did not matter more than intra-EU wrangling since Macedonia met the conditions more than Croatia. The EU split over Iraq 2003, and did not do much more than twitch over Libya. So, the EU’s record as a force for peace beyond its members is pretty lame.
My daughter’s take seems to be the right one: sure, the EU is a fine organization, but aren’t there those actors that have done more and need more legitimation than the EU? Naming Obama before he did anything as President was a mistake, and so is this.
This piece was originally posted on Steve Saideman’s personal blog.