It’s been a day of celebration and backslapping in Oslo, Norway. European leaders including the presidents of France and Germany have been congratulating each other and their predecessors for receiving an unexpected honor: the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. The prize was awarded to the European Union for helping to create more 60 years of peace in a once war-torn continent.
At today’s ceremony, Thorbjoern Jagland -- chairman of the Nobel Committee -- heaped praise on Europe and the EU.
“What this continent has achieved is truly fantastic,” said Jagland. “From being a continent of war to becoming a continent of peace. In this process, the European Union has figured most prominently. It therefore deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”
No one agreed more readily than Herman Van Rompuy. As the president of the European Council, he’s one of the EU’s three separate presidents. All were on hand in Oslo today to receive what Van Rompuy called this “richly deserved award.” He said that nobody can deny that the European Union is the main driver for peace in Europe.
Nobody, perhaps, except Nigel Farage and his many fellow euro-skeptics in Britain. Farage is the leader of the U.K. Independence Party and an unremitting critic of European monetary union; he believes that by yoking 17 different economies into the one currency union the EU has not promoted peace.
“The eurozone has divided Europe north to south,” says Farage. “And it’s increasing, growing enmities and violence on the street. We are headed in a very bad and dangerous direction.”
Farage applauds the EU pledge to spend the $1.2 million prize money on projects helping children caught up in conflicts. But he still deplores the award.
Many Norwegians may also have their doubts. The country that’s just apparently paid extravagant homage to the European Union has itself steadfastly refused to join.