This morning, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its 2012 Peace Prize to the European Union for its role over the past 60 years in building peace and reconciliation among enemies who fought in the nations’ wars.
The award also seemed to illuminate competing visions of Europe as both historical unifier and meddlesome overlord, recalling deep strains within the bloc, primarily between Germany and other European nations over Berlin’s insistence on austerity to resolve the euro crisis, measures that have brought pain to Greece and Spain particularly.
Indeed, some Europeans themselves were taken aback by the prize. As Reuters reports:
“Is this a joke?” asked Chrisoula Panagiotidi, 36, a beautician who lost her job three days ago. “It’s the last thing I would expect. It mocks us and what we are going through right now. All it will do is infuriate people here.”
In Madrid, Francisco Gonzalez expressed bafflement. “I don’t see the logic in the EU getting this prize right now. They can’t even agree among themselves,” the 62-year-old businessman said.
In Berlin, public relations worker Astrid Meinicke, 46, was also skeptical. “I find it curious. I think the EU could have engaged itself a bit better, especially in Syria,” she said, near the city’s historic Brandenburg Gate.
Many Norwegians are bitterly opposed to the EU, seeing it as a threat to the sovereignty of nation states. “I find this absurd,” the leader of Norway’s anti-EU membership organization Heming Olaussen told NRK.
Norway, the home of the peace prize, has voted “no” twice to joining the EU, in 1972 and 1994.
On Twitter, commenters lost no time in reducing the prize to pointed, 140-character long observations and mockeries:
@rockjnewman Giving the#Nobel #PeacePrize to a govt coalition is like writing a novel without any characters.
@jswatz Giving the Peace Prize to the EU feels a little like the year TIme magazine awarded “Person of the Year” to “You.”
@ johnmcquaid: Eurasia, Oceania, Eastasia win Nobel Peace Prize. Oh, I kid Europe. But seriously …
@David_Boaz Maybe they’ll give the Economics prize to Congress.
@brokep Oh the irony. Because of the EU, Sweden is not a neutral country in conflicts anymore. So much for #nobel #peace.
@stefandevries BREAKING: The 27 member states are already fighting over who is going to pick up the prize in Oslo.
@pigmyanalogyboy The fallout from #eu #Nobel is going to be entertaining to say the least. Get some popcorn and a copy of the @Telegraph
More from Smothsonian.com:
China’s ‘Provocative and Vulgar’ Mo Yan Wins Nobel in Literature