(05f) The Nobel Peace Price for the European Union.

The European Union (EU) deserves the Nobel Peace Price, ... and maybe certainly at this moment (or maybe not). Why? To reflect on its past achievements and its will to help member states who need help. Although the people from countries in need will disagree as so many suffer and therefore maybe it was better to wait until after the crisis to judge Europe's solution on how she solved it.

Past achievements.

EU on the Euro, together with Norway.
The EU arose after WWII to improve trade between European countries in the hope it would increase the chances of peace between them. Countries could join voluntarily but only after certain criteria were met, such as good records on the environment, human rights and equal opportunities. Because people in other countries experienced the EU brought peace and prosperity, those countries wanted to join and thus were forced to increase democracy in their own countries before being allowed in the EU. To improve trade, EU countries opened their borders so people can travel and trade from one country to another without restrictions (in theory), although open borders should not mean no control because control is necessary to stop criminals, but now countries work together against criminality. To further improve trade, one single currency (the Euro) was introduced, but also to strengthen Europe's position on the global markets. As a result, prices of products should drop between countries because of competition although many people say they often experienced the opposite (thus Europe should further integrate). But the EU also enforced lower prices within the EU, e.g. by preventing the formation of cartels or forcing lower prices for international calls because the EU forced companies to regard the EU as one unity and no longer as single countries. It also made laws to improve the rights of employees such as a maximum working week so people could no longer be exploited. The EU used diplomacy and supported countries financially that moved in the direction of more democracy. All this on a voluntarily basis and as people saw the advantages of the EU, they welcomed the EU. Therefore, the EU deserves the Nobel Peace Price.

But it was not only to increase trade between countries, it also changed people's perception of each other because, as travelling became more easy, people learned to know other cultures and their people. People who were really interested would try to speak at least a few words of the country they visited (not all humans learn quickly another language). But they would at least try to speak one common language, mostly English or French, so that they would be able to communicate. And this language resulted (mostly) in equality: people speaking a second language understand how difficult it can be to communicate in another language. People would try the local food. Of course, there are people who only want to speak their own language, meet people and eat food from their own country, even abroad. But even these people, after years going to the same place because they love it, start to meet locals who encourage them to eat something different, to speak some foreign words. That is why the EU deserves the Nobel Peace Price.

Present situation.

Does the EU still deserves the Nobel Peace Price? That is more difficult to answer at this moment.

YES, because I believe many European leaders do their best to help troubled countries but people don't see the advantages any longer. E.g. Germany and other countries pay large amounts of money to help failing countries but in return they demand those countries implement better policies. And each time countries help, the EU tells them their budget spiral out of control because, I have to admit, the EU now thinks too much about budget control. Thus, some countries deserves the price but also the EU because many of its politicians do their best to rescue poorer countries but each time they do something the markets tell them it is not enough. Indeed, the EU doesn't do enough towards the markets to control them.

NO, because people no longer see the advantages of the EU and thus it fails. Because the EU is no longer based on voluntariness but it dictates its will on countries. This is out of fear for the markets, and because not enough politicians believe any longer in the strength of the EU. Of course, when countries give money they can demand something back, i.e. good governance. But the people should be given the chance to accept the help or not. It cannot be that decisions are made and forced upon the people while the majority is against the decisions, or they revolt. If people in countries decide it is better to leave the EU, they should be able to do so without any cost while they should always be allowed to return when the anger has settled. PM Merkel says she will do everything she can to keep the Greek inside the EU. I think it is her way to say she wants to help to help Greece. But she should allow the Greek to accept or refuse the help.

But the help of the donors should be different and more as it was in the past: the money should be used to invest, not to pay debts. When the money is used to stimulate the economy (e.g. green energy), there will be work and thus people will notice the advantages of the EU. We know from our help to Africa that giving money to countries doesn't work because often it ends up in the hands of corrupt people. I don't say leaders of countries are corrupt but often the given money ends in the hands of people who are little interested in the well being of people, except their own well being. We started giving help directly to people and local communities who then used the money to start a business and make a living. These people will do their best to make their business a success. But people who misuse the money should be punished. People with a job are able to pay taxes (ALL people should pay taxes, including the rich and companies) and this money can be used to pay off debts. Thus, the payment of the debts will be slower, but people will be able to work and pay their bills and thus it is more sustainable. The money donated should be repaid but help means money is given without interest.

Thus, Europe's money should be used to help local people who then can start a business. Then they can repay the money plus a little interest (free money is never good as people will misuse the gift). Europe could pay the teachers, nurses and doctors and civil servants so the governments from the weak countries can concentrate on reducing their deficits. It could be used to invest in new communal buildings and streets so private companies have work. But money needs to return. E.g. toll can be asked for the use of streets: then people will only use their car when needed and thus change their behaviour while the traffic will be more relaxed (in London it became easier to cross streets after the Congestion Charge was introduced). Don't abandon the maximum working hours; I heard people in Greece have to work one extra day for the same money and thus more people will loose their job while those who work can become exhausted, resulting in burnouts and thus more illnesses, increasing the cost of healthcare. And some people should accept to earn less: those who earn too much. And everyone should pay their taxes. The good of Europe should not be removed because of the crisis. And as the people will notice the advantages of Europe, they are less likely to turn to extreme right, something only few people would benefit from.

Allow more people to work from home (while checking they do what is expected) and we have less traffic and less office space to rent. Official documents can be send by email using electronic signature. Why should only printed documents be accepted? And these documents still need preparation. This will future reduce expenditure.

I understand people in Greece and Spain are angry with their leaders and Europe. I understand they find the EU doesn't deserve the Nobel Peace Price because many people are loosing everything, even their life because of starvation, suicide or increased violence (and then people turn to extreme parties if they have the impression they help them). The EU forces countries during a financial crisis to do what it didn't force them to do during good times, i.e. good governance. But I believe many politicians thought the people from southern countries deserved a better life after years of dictatorship and many didn't expect this crisis. I understand people think (European) "bureaucrats" earn too much. But people should know that those who are really guilty of this crisis (e.g. some investment bankers), earn much more and most of the money given to poor countries doesn't return to the donor countries but disappears in their pockets.

Nevertheless, European leaders should not praise themselves for winning the Nobel Peace Price as they made mistakes and thus the price angers people. Maybe the EU can donate the money to Greece (although it is too little and other countries may ask why it isn't given to them).

Dangers, as the Nobel Committee warned.

The small and cheap side of Europe.
Indeed, as the Nobel Committee warned, "awful wars" can be the result if the EU collapses or they may lead to its collapse. But it will not be the fault of those who believe in one Europe or because of the Euro, but because of those who hate Europe although they stay in it for their own benefit and to enlarge their own influence in Europe and the world.

Who criticised the price? E.g. Ukip in the UK, the Freedom Party in the Netherlands and other extreme right parties but also the far-left Front de Gauche in France. Indeed, extreme parties are in general nationalistic and don't like to share. They are joined by the euroskeptic (or shall I call them europhobes?) of the UK and other countries within the EU but outside the Eurozone who can now boost they were right about the EU's failure. Indeed, this price can be used by anti-Europe groups to claim Europe is out-of-touch. Although I admire the UK for many things, I feel sorry they never embraced the EU but always saw it as an enemy.

In the Guardian (13/10/2012), the British historian David Priestland writes that maybe the EU deserved the price in the past but now "... it is distinctly odd. The introduction of the euro changed the EU from an institution that used economic integration to promote peace to one that is sacrificing peace on the altar of free market economics" and "For much of its history, therefore, the European project has had a good claim on a peace price - though it would never have won a price for internal democracy". Indeed, it is now very easy for those in countries who always blocked progress in Europe to condemn that Europe.
  1. Europe introduced legislation across the EU to improve the rights for employees without sacrificing the economy. For instance, the EU's working time directive imposes a 48 hour maximum working week that applies to every member state except the United Kingdom (which has an opt-out meaning that UK-based employees may work longer than 48 hours if they wish, but they cannot be forced to do so). Which country sacrificed mostly on the altar of free market economics? Indeed, the UK often threatened to veto regulation of the free market economics unless it was in the advantage of companies (although I credit them they were the main force to stimulate competition within Europe, even allowing foreign companies take over British companies as long as it reduced prices for their customers).
  2. How often didn't European leaders try to improve democracy within Europe (e.g. Treaty of Maastricht, Treaty of Lisbon) while it was the UK and some other countries that blocked efforts to e.g. abandon the veto in Europe? Is a veto not the most anti-democratic measure? Indeed, one country with only a few hundred thousand people can block what hundreds of millions of people want. The UK always claims to defend democracy, why then do they so often use their veto to enforce their way on the rest of Europe? Why do they not embrace the majority vote? Why do they not embrace an elected presidency (although they didn't mind supporting a Brit becoming an unelected President although he failed)? They could leave the EU. But instead, euroskeptics are the one most in favour of expanding the EU. Why? Because that slows down the necessary reforms towards a real European democracy. They support the entry of countries even when they don't meet all criteria.
The EU is now forcing policies of the UK on countries (i.e. forcing countries to reduce their deficits) while the UK is criticising the EU it doesn't do enough to stimulate its economy. And while Germany and other countries are helping failing European countries but receive only hate for their help, the UK and other countries do nothing to help those countries while they are praised because they are outside the Euro and predicted these things would happen. Why were they so sure these things would happen?

In conclusion, I still believe in the EU and I admire the countries who help although I think the help should be different from its current form. I am also in favour of more democracy in Europe such as an elected President of the Federal States of Europe. Europe should also be able to raise its own taxes so it doesn't need to beg for money by its members while the members can use their own taxes to invest in their own state (e.g. investment in education). The EU should also force much more that companies obey the European laws and pay taxes.

But maybe because people don't understand that countries who are giving money are trying to help them (money that is used to reduce deficits these countries have with companies (i.e. banks)), hate turns against countries that help while people praise countries that do nothing and criticise the EU and people may eventually follow them. And weak European leaders do not deserve respect from people. But remember, the UK et al. are against helping poor countries and are against protection of employees: they are in favour of unlimited working hours, lower payments and less benefits.

Therefore, I still believe the EU is the best way to solve the problems but the money should be used as in the past: to stimulate the economy and not to pay money to those who caused the financial crisis while laws should be made to control those who caused the crisis. Let us hope the anger will not turn against the lower sections of banks, because those are mostly the first victims.

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