EU wins Nobel Peace Prize? Cave hic dragones

The far edges of medieval maps were often inscribed with a warning for travelers “Cave, hic dragones” (Beware, here be dragons.) This is precisely the danger raised by today’s (well justified) decision to award the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the EU for its contribution to peace, democracy and human rights in Europe. Notwithstanding the EU’s huge contribution to pacifying and democratising a continent that previously had known warfare and dictatorship, the Union is now confronting two enormous existential crises: the obvious one (unmanageable debts, lack of growth, unstable currency) and a less obvious one (the increasing gap between the identities and demands of citizens and the institutions and policy programmes of the Union). In this environment, any vigorous or historically-focused celebration of the award will exacerbate the public’s sense that Brussels is out of touch with who they are, what they think and what they need. Instead, EU leaders and officials should use this occasion to raise public awareness of what the Union does for EU citizens today and what opportunities exist for them to shape its future.

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