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Peace through institution building

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union is important and interesting. The award is given for the EU’s peace-building and democracy-expanding work over the past 55 years. The prize also reminds us that peace in Europe should not be taken for granted.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 was awarded the European Union (Photo: colourbox.com)

The reason for the creation of the EU was reconciliation and promotion of peace between former enemies in Europe, particularly France and Germany. That was the goal. The central instrument was economic integration. It was succesfull. Going to war against a European neighbour is now impossible, not only because it is illegal, but also because the countries are now close economic and, gradually, political partners. The European population is tied together in a common destiny. There is a consensus of opinion on this both politically and in the academic literature.

In these times, the prize may seem controversial. We must remember, however, that in Europe the discussions about the EU circle around the contents of the policies, and not whether the Union should exist or not. According to the Eurobarometer, the populations of the EU member states have a generally higher confidence in the EU than in their national governments and parliaments, even though the overall confidence in politicians as a whole has declined in recent years. Moreover, 84 per cent respond "yes" to the question pertaining to whether one should increase the level of  European cooperation in order to address the on-going economic crisis.

We hope the award can help to expand the European debate to focus more on the fact that the European Union is something else and something more than a market-liberal project. It is first and foremost an extra-ordinary tool to resolve conflicts beyond the nation-state level. This is politically important - and also academically interesting for us social scientists.

The Nobel Committee emphasises the peace-making effects of the EU’s mutual confidence-building activities. This has been possible through the development of institutions and rules for dealing with political and economic cooperation. This requires more research and knowledge, not least in Norway.

ARENA is part of an international research network and has for years researched the functioning of the unique structure of the EU and analysing what furthers integration and what may halt it.

Published Oct 12, 2012 03:31 PM - Last modified Oct 12, 2012 03:31 PM