Whenever the argument is put forward that the club now called the EU has helped to keep the peace across Europe since its creation following the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the antis rise up as one and cry foul: this view cannot be allowed to stand. In opposition, they argue that the real force for peace has been the presence of the US military, and that to claim otherwise is anti-American.
There is just one thing wrong with this view: it’s crap. The USA was there, in the longer term at least, because of the fear of military action by the then USSR and its satellite countries. It was not focused, and nor could it, on internal disputes within western Europe. Moreover, the USA effectively intervened in Greece via a CIA backed plot which installed a military dictatorship there in 1967.
The Greek junta further destabilised the Mediterranean region in its dying days by attempting to impose enosis on Cyprus, precipitating the Turkish invasion which resulted in the island being divided – a situation that still persists. The EU has not intervened militarily anywhere, or encouraged such behaviour. Nor has it, despite assertions to the contrary, subverted the democratic process in any member state.
EU membership and institutions have – despite the frothing and ranting of some politicians and much of the Fourth Estate in the UK – helped to foster peaceable understanding and cooperation across borders. And, although to listen to some apparently respectable commentators one might believe otherwise, we retain democratic control over the whole thing via regular elections.
So the award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize – by unanimous accord – to the EU should surprise no-one. Spreading peace through economic cooperation may not sound particularly macho or sexy, but it is undoubtedly effective, and has brought together most of a continent comprised of many different nation states, while not leaving out those who have chosen not to enter full membership.
Sure, there are things about the EU that are far from perfect: as I’ve argued many times, there is much work still to do on the single currency, and following from that a return to consistent and solid EU-wide growth. And, thought it will be just as challenging, the EU has to speak more and more with one voice on the world stage, while taking a restrained approach to military intervention.
But the greatest pleasure at the Nobel committee announcement here on Zelo Street is to see the braying mob of Europhobics howling in disbelief as they try and fail utterly to comprehend the news. For them, nothing, but nothing, positive can come out of the EU: to even suggest otherwise cannot be countenanced. The incoherent, powerless and pointless rage will be a joy to behold.
For everyone else, it’s a recognition of much hard work done, and much still to do.