Buckets of rain were falling over the MacTweedledeedum links. There was silence apart from the distant drilling in the wall of the clubhouse. Big Jim McTweedle was building another extension to the bar. Bob’s heart was in the highlands but his mind was on the next hole. It was the awkward 15th, where only a lot of backspin could keep you out of the bunker.
The European Coal and Steel Community and the other elements from which the EU springs were explicitly intended to make war between France and Germany ‘not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible’. That aim has been achieved, though America and Nato also played their part. But what contribution has the EU made to peacemaking elsewhere? I restrict my thoughts here to three conflicts in which I have been personally involved as a diplomat: Palestine, Cyprus and Northern Ireland.
Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that 'the union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.' Writing in the LRB five years ago, Perry Anderson observed: The integration of the East into the Union is the major achievement to which admirers of the new Europe can legitimately point. Of course, as with the standard encomia of the record of EU as a whole, there is a gap between ideology and reality in the claims made for it.
Nobelprisdag is a special day in Sweden. Stockholm city centre stops while the prizewinners are shunted from the Grand Hotel to the Concert House for the awards, then on to the City Hall for the dinner, followed by the laureates’ speeches, and a ball. All this is fully covered on Swedish television, preceded by the Peace Prize ceremony relayed from Oslo. It starts on SVT2 at midday, and goes on into the small hours.
Last year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize escalated the war in Afghanistan a few weeks after receiving the prize. The award surprised even Obama. This year the Chinese government were foolish to make a martyr of the president of Chinese PEN and neo-con Liu Xiaobo. He should never have been arrested, but the Norwegian politicians who comprise the committee, led by Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Labour prime minister, wanted to teach China a lesson. And so they ignored their hero’s views. Or perhaps they didn’t, given that their own views are not dissimilar. The committee thought about giving Bush and Blair a joint peace prize for invading Iraq but a public outcry forced a retreat. For the record, Liu Xiaobo has stated publicly that in his view:
Obama has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. The head of the Nobel committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, explained why: 'It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve.' Were to someone to declare, very publicly, that they had embarked on writing the best novel of all time, what should their Nobel ambitions be? Can I have it now, please?