The EU deserves the Nobel Prize
When the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) met in the humble Sicilian town of Messina in 1955 to found the Common Market, the rest of Europe did not take much notice. The British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden ridiculed this “Utopian idea” and it is reported that he and his Foreign Secretary were bored.
This reaction sums up the general British attitude to Europe for most of the last 50 years. Paradoxically Britain – the nation that lost millions of its youths in the two great wars of the last century, the most murderous in history, and fought in the noble pursuit of democracy and peace – shunned the award ceremony held in Oslo recently in order to placate the Eurosceptics.
It is to be mentioned that at the time of the Messina inaugural meeting another major conflagration was already looming in the Suez Canal zone and the clouds of war were hanging precariously on the Iron Curtain States. But the founding fathers whose countries had suffered enormously in the First and Second World Wars openly advocated and proclaimed their peaceful aspirations with France and Germany, two previously bitter enemies, taking a leading role in the quest for peace.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 has been awarded to the European Union in recognition of its 52 years of peace-building and the promotion of democracy in a continent ravaged by wars. In fact, the official citation addressed to European leaders, headed by Jose Manuel Barroso, at the awards ceremony in Oslo, underlines the stabilising part played by the European Union which helped to transform most of Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace”. Undoubtedly octogenarians, people of my generation, are particularly elated by this prestigious award, fully conscious of the founding fathers’ determination to put sanity among the European states by committing themselves to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights as well as the elimination of dictators with the accession in the 1980s of Greece, Spain and Portugal.
In order to really understand the significance of this “Holy Alliance”, initially known as the Common Market, one should take a backward glance at the tragic events that had occurred on our continent. The history of Europe in the first half of the 20th century reads like an apocalypse. The last century opened with the breakdown of Western bourgeoisie civilisation resulting in the holocaust of the Great War (1914-1918) and from then on, the rise of the far right and the flourishing of fascism and Nazism. In the European wars from 1900 to 1945 more people were killed or allowed to die by human decisions than ever before in history. A rough estimate for Europe alone is 187 million. Truly this period has been one of unparalleled catastrophe marked by the most brutal warfare of all time and the most terribly planned genocide.
As a young student in the aftermath of the last war (1939-45) the war poets of the Great War left a lasting impression on my sensitive mind. The killing fields of Europe immortalised by the likes of Rupert Brooke in The Soldier, Wilfred Owen in Anthem for a Doomed Youth, Laurence Binyon in For the Fallen as well as the semi-documentary Oscar winning film All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) became defining moments in my life which not even my first-hand experience of the last war in the midst of death, destruction and starvation could erase. The first world war was uniquely dreadful in military history. The conditions of the trenches were so appalling and the recurrent slaughter so horrific – in July 1916, 60,000 British troops attacked German trenches in the Battle of the Somme (Northern France) resulting in 57,470 casualties on that day alone.
Recently Britain commemorated the decisive bloody battle of El Alamein in Egypt 70 years ago, another infamous killing-field, which in Rupert Brooke’s poetic lines, was “a corner of a foreign land that is forever England”. The present generation cannot even visualise the extent of the massacre that robbed “civilised” Europe of its flowering youths in the blood and carnage of the two great wars. Consequently it should be further appreciated that the wages of peace expounded by the heirs of the founding fathers have brought to an end this animosity and tragic deaths. Truly “peace has it victories not less renowned than war’s” characterised by the EU’s hidden hands in the liberation from oppression of the countries of Eastern Europe; hopefully, after minute scrutiny even the remaining Balkan countries will come into the fold.
These major achievements have surely made the EU fully deserving of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. As active members of this organisation it would be most fitting to erect at the Upper Barakka, a favourite site with visiting politicians, a plaque or monument to commemorate this precious award.