While European officials are proud of the Nobel Committee's decision on Friday to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, the award drew criticism from some.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 15/10/12
The Nobel Prize committee awarded its 2012 Peace Prize to the EU. [Reuters]
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU is a "tremendous honour" for everyone in the 27-nation bloc, the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission (EC), Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, said.
"This prize is the strongest possible recognition of the deep political motives behind our Union: the unique effort by ever more European states to overcome war and divisions and to jointly shape a continent of peace and prosperity," they said in a joint statement on Friday. "It is a prize not just for the project and the institutions embodying a common interest, but for the 500 million citizens living in our Union."
The Norwegian Nobel Committee picked the winner of this year's peace prize on Friday (October 12th) from 231 nominations, including 43 organisations.
In announcing its decision, it said the EU "and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."
The five-member panel cited Brussels' push for the establishment of democracy in Greece, Spain and Portugal as a condition for their EU entry in the 1980s as one of the reasons for the move. Another motive was the bloc's efforts to end the East-West divide after the fall of the Berlin Wall by opening the club's doors to former communist states adhering to the bloc's principles and values.
"The admission of Croatia as a member next year, the opening of membership negotiations with Montenegro, and the granting of candidate status to Serbia all strengthen the process of reconciliation in the Balkans," the committee said in a statement. "In the past decade, the possibility of EU membership for Turkey has also advanced democracy and human rights in that country."
While officials reveled in the choice, there are others who are critical, saying that the EU's challenges should have disqualified it from the award.
"It's a disgrace!" Evgeniy Dainov, a professor in political science at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia, told SETimes. "Why now, when things don't look good at all in the EU? Who would the award go to exactly -- the 27 member states, the EC?"
Peter Todorov, a 61-year-old shopkeeper from Sofia, agreed. "How can someone say that the EU deserves the Nobel Peace Prize after its failure for more than two years now to resolve a crisis that has shaken social peace in Europe?" he asked SETimes.
Although Romania was among the first in the EU nations to feel the bite of the financial crisis that started spreading across the globe in late 2008, some did not view the Nobel Committee's decision as unfounded.
"Many have been disappointed and looked at it as at a consolation award," Aurelian Lovin, a social sciences teacher in Bucharest, told SETimes. "But the EU remains a reference point to many countries outside its borders. It is the space of stability, prosperity and reconciliation and even if undergoing difficult times, its demise is a distant reality."
SETimes correspondent Paul Ciocoiu in Bucharest contributed to this report.