Why the EU deserves the Nobel Prize
In the light of two great wars in Europe during the 20th century the leaders of those countries most affected by the tragic consequences of these wars met in Paris in 1951 and resolved to establish a lasting mechanism that would prevent war from happening again.
After the devastation of World War II, Europe was blessed with a group of similar-thinking leaders who worked assiduously to create a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe.
Among the most prominent were Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister known as the Father of Europe, and his adviser Jean Monnet who was behind the famous Schuman Plan that was the basis of the 1951 ECSC Treaty, Konrad Adenauer, German Chancellor whose policies of reconciliation with France changed the face of post-war Europe, Alcide de Gasperi, Italian Prime Minister who forged the path of his country’s destiny in Europe in alliance with America, and Paul Henri Spaak, Prime Minister of Belgium who formulated the Treaty of Rome.
In 1951, the Treaty of Paris was signed creating the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The treaty was signed by France, Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries to establish a common market in coal and steel.
The main aim, however, was to design and establish an international community based on supernationalism and international law to bring about the regeneration of the economy of Europe and more importantly to prevent future wars by integrating its members.
The Treaty of Paris, despite the initial difficulties brought about mainly by old and deep-seated suspicions, was a success. It was clear from the outset for its architects that the Community was not merely about transnational trade, but represented a first important political step towards the peaceful integration of Europe.
While the ECSC had some successes in bringing about greater cooperation between member states, in particular between France and Germany, the period between 1951 and 1957 was a mixed one from the point of view of European integration.
The new leaders of Europe however were determined to press on. The Treaty of Rome of 1957 designed by the same six original members eventually created the European Economic Community (EEC) aimed at bringing about economic integration. Upon the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, the EEC was renamed the European Community (EC) to reflect the wide range of policies it now embraced.
The Union now comprises 27 members from the original six. It has given Europe more than 60 years of peace, and despite its present serious economic and financial difficulties, it has made Europe prosperous, stable and its members more integrated and trusting in their dealings. Despite some doubts that recur from time to time, the EU remains solid and united and none of its members (including the UK, despite the occasional talk to the contrary) would want to see its break-up. Indeed the opposite is the truth with new prospective members knocking at its doors for entrance.
The decision to award the EU the Nobel Prize should be welcomed by all. It is a reminder that Europe is more than the euro and that its achievements over 60 years have been remarkable. The founders believed that by allowing free movement of trade and peoples across the continent, the EU would foster deep, political, commercial and social links, making future wars unthinkable.
One cannot close these thoughts without reference to Winston Churchill’s great contribution to a United Europe and his great foresight in mapping out its path.
Churchill’s famous speech of 1946 delivered to Zurich University is acknowledged by many as of great historical importance and one of the main cornerstones of post-war European policies. The great virtue of Churchill’s speech was that in it he saw that a united Europe must be based on Franco-German partnership.
He stated: “The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral leadership of Europe.”
Schuman declared on May 16, 1949 at the first meeting of the Council of Europe members in Strasbourg that “We are carrying out a great experiment, the fulfillment of the same recurrent dream that for 10 centuries has revisited the peoples of Europe, creating between them an organization putting an end to war and guaranteeing eternal peace.”
Looking back, the sagacity of such words, as also those of Churchill, is incredible. Truly, the decision to award the EU the Nobel Prize was indeed an inspired decision and should put the doubters in their place for a long time.