There is much snarking on Twitter about the Nobel Committee’s decision to confer the 2012 Peace Prize to the European Union (Sample tweet: “Next year, the Nobel committee should consider awarding the peace prize to puppies.” — @JeffreyGoldberg)
The thing is, if you take the long view, there is a very good case to be made that the EU, which is shorthand for European integration, has been among the most powerful forces for peace in the history of humanity. Here, for example, a list of every major war in Europe since the French Revolution:
War of the First Coalition, the major Continental powers and Britain, 1792-1796.
Napoleonic Wars, the major Continental powers and Britain, 1796-1815.
Belgian War of Independence, Belgium and the Netherlands, 1830-1831.
The Revolutions of 1848, France, Austria, Italy, Bohemia, Hungary and Germany, 1848-1849.
Crimean War, Britain, France, and Russia, 1853-1856.
War between France and Austria over Lombardy, 1859.
Wars of the Italian Reunification (Risorgimento), the Italian principalities, 1860-1870.
Schleswig-Holstein War, Austria, Prussia, Denmark, 1864.
Seven Weeks’ war, Austria, Prussia, Italy and Saxony, 1866.
Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871.
World War I, 1914-1918.
World War II, 1939-1945.
You’ll notice there has not been one since 1945. They simply don’t happen anymore; wars of this kind are a relic of a bygone era. Europe’s economic and political integration has eliminated major international warfare from an entire continent steeped in a very bloody history. That’s a big deal!
You can take issue with the way various EU bodies and personalities have handled the financial crisis, but if you take a longer perspective the decision to award the Peace Prize to the European Union was one that was way overdue.