Awarding the most coveted peace prize to the European Union was no doubt a well-staged coup de théâtre. Not surprisingly, the decision has infuriated the (ever growing) battalion of Euro über-skeptics, who have cried foul. Crowning a freshly minted US president with little to show for as peace-maker (as the Nobel committee did in 2009), baffling as it might sound, can be written off as naive wishful thinking . But the EU? The new leviathan that is currently taking the continent down the drain? The Devil impersonated? Come on! The Nobel committee, however, has managed to achieve another, and arguably more difficult, feat, that is to embarrass the pro-EU crowd, especially those in the halls of power who still (claim to) support the European project. They might not dare to say it openly – after all, this prize is a recognition of the positive impact that the Union has had on putting the continent’s history of conflict and destruction behind. In normal circumstances, these kinds of awards are the best you might wish for. But these are not normal circumstances. It is an understatement to say that the EU has gone through better days. A prize now? Awkward… Indeed, EU leaders might feel the same type of unease that surrounded (then) English football captain John Terry, who in 2009 won a prize as ‘dad of the year[i], although he was cheating on his wife…[ii]. (In fairness, revelations about the footballer’s extra-curricular activities came ex post facto, unlike the EU case, where the award committee was well aware of the recipient’s current record…). Intriguing as it might be, this story does not end with the controversial decision taken back in October in Oslo. Even around the time of the actual award ceremony (known as ‘Nobel days’), the spectacle continues – now taking on the features of the comedie de l’absurd. As a precautionary measure, Norway – the host country – has decided to reinstate controls at its frontiers to prevent possible troublemakers to ruin the event. The irony is not lost in this move. Norway, a non EU member who is a member of Schengen – Europe’s border free regime – temporarily has suspended EU rules regarding freedom of movement to celebrate the Union’s achievements, including – ehm – cross continent freedom of movement. So, while frontier controls are supposedly not an effective tool against cross border criminal activities – as the EU mantra goes – they are indispensable to protect EU leaders attending a ceremony in which they hail themselves as beacons of freedom. Worth repeating: awkward!
Contradictions are an integral part of politics. After all, politics is the art of the possible, of rendering the absurd normal and the unacceptable tolerable. Which makes me wonder: might be John Terry heading to Oslo next year (and not for a football game)?