The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced today that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 has been awarded to the European Union. The EU becomes the twenty-first organization to win the award, but the first regional intergovernmental organization. It was selected from among 231 nominees, 43 of which were organizations. In making the award, the Committee said, "The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."
The announcement was immediately criticized by many of those who have faulted the way the EU has handled its ongoing financial crisis. Martin Callanan, a British politician and member of the European Parliament, called the choice "downright out of touch."
It is true that the EU is in the middle of what may be the greatest crisis in its history. The Nobel Committee seems to have concluded, however, that the crisis makes this a particularly opportune moment to remind Europeans and the world of the organization's considerable accomplishments. Thorbjoern Jagland, the chairman of the Nobel Committee, described those accomplishments in these terms: "The dreadful suffering in World War II demonstrated the need for a new Europe. Over a 70-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars. Today, war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners."
The little European Coal and Steel Community established in 1951 has come a long way.