Granting the Nobel peace prize to the European Union is a stroke of genius. While Europe is threatened with the specter of disintegration, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wants to remind us that bringing many nations together under the roof of a single political and economic entity is one of the most imaginative initiatives in the history of peace making.
Unlike the United States, Europe is made up of many languages and histories, often engaged in skirmishes and sometimes exhausting wars. It was out of the rubble of World War II that battle-scarred Europeans started crawling toward a new era of peace. France and Germany, perennial enemies, intertwined their industrial production, giving birth to an inspiring spirit of cooperation, integration, inclusion, and expansion that hasn’t stopped yet.
Who in my generation could forget the excitement of watching Spanish pesetas, French francs and many other historic currencies turn into euros at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2001? This was a unique event in history. On January 1, 2004, Romano Prodi, then the European Commission’s president declared that the “unipolar world is over.”
Europe’s power is somewhat invisible in the United States. Several laws protecting consumers are first mandated in Brussels, not in Washington, DC. Many brand-name businesses in the United States, including the mineral water in my state of Maine, Poland Springs, are owned by European companies. Back in 2004, T. R. Reid, author of The United States of Europe, commented on this new European invasion by writing: “Not since the colonial era, when Britain, France, and Spain each claimed imperial sway over segments of the broad land that would become the United States, has so much of the American economy been under the control of Europeans—or any other foreign interest, for that matter.”
Reid’s book. along with Jeremy Rifkin’s The European Dream, expressed the excitement at that time for European culture and its values. Meanwhile, the film L’Auberge Espagnole was available to highlight the multicultural identity of this new continental society. The movie is a powerful illustration of what happens when citizens of many nations, speaking many languages, are forced to coexist in the same (small) space.
Obviously, the European project is far from complete and may very well be endangered, due to the financial meltdown ravaging its southern member nations. Ironically enough, Norway, home of the Nobel Committee, has not joined.
Turkey’s application for membership has been repeatedly rebuffed. But the 27-nation union is about to add Croatia, open talks with Montenegro, and grant candidate status to Serbia. Yet, as Europe expands, it also—as Matthew Carr shows us in his latest book, Fortress Europe—seeks to close its borders to other neighbors, especially those across the Mediterranean. In, October 2008, the European Union (EU) and Morocco announced their decision to notably strengthen their relationship under the advanced status requested by Morocco within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The granting of advanced status ratified a range of proposals presented and discussed in regular meetings held by an ad hoc working group formed at the sixth meeting of the Association Council entrusted with making the “advanced status” a reality.
The partnership ties between Morocco and the EU have been actively forged in an attempt to provide a better perspective of the growth of the European Union through its successive expansions yet remain attentive to the geostrategic developments that have characterised the region. The two partners decided to reexamine the contractual framework that linked them and to map out the future of their partnership and open up new opportunities to promote, within the ENP, values such as openness, progress and prosperity and to move towards a “privileged partnership” capable of genuinely contributing towards the emergence of a renewed Euro-Mediterranean order.
Still, Europe’s story is absolutely remarkable. That old continent has contributed much to world civilization and still does. Let us wish it a long peaceful life.