Sunday, October 14, 2012


This is the season of falling leaves and misty morning light. While Hollywood's Oscars bask in the limelight, Nobel Prizes shun it and are forgotten as soon as the laureates--often obscure writers, scientists and well-wishing NGOs--have left the awkward pomp and their Andy Warhol 15 minutes of celebrity.  After Gore and Obama were rewarded for the weather forecast and rhetorical skills (remember Berlin?), the jury found nothing better than to come up serendipitously with a surreal idea, attributing the prize to the European Union.  Brussels being Magritte's surreal lair, this "over the top" choice might be in line with the EU capital's inescapable, absurd merry-go-rounds. Their Swedish colleagues are equally famous for choosing the forgettable rather than nominating the meaningful (Marcel Proust, Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens,Tennessee Williams...shall I continue?) 

If the prize had been given to the European coal and steel community or to the Treaty of Rome or to the historic embrace between Adenauer and de Gaulle, the applause would have been general.  Admittedly, Europe has made extraordinary macro economical advances, enshrined in the EU, but military, political and financial strands lag behind.  Qualitative and quantitative inroads are not without pitfalls and ulterior motives. Certain recent scenes in the streets of Athens and Madrid are frankly unacceptable. The euro crisis is an unpleasant eye-opener.

Under these conditions, giving a prize to this post-Delors European hybrid is hard to phathom. Contrary to the European euphoria after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the mood today is cynical and frankly unpleasant. The images of the Soviet invasions in Budapest and Prague, the East German Stasi laboratory, the horrors in Sarajevo, Kosovo or Srebenica hardly fit into the narrative of a continent at peace since World War II.  True, Western Europe has no ownership of these events but it is undeniable that it often chose to look elsewhere rather than get involved. This attitude was not only incorrect, it was immoral.

I wonder who will be the recipient in Oslo, by the way. The President of the Commission? The President of the European Council? The rotating President of the EU? The member states, united by mutual loathing?  The EU's relevance has been diminished. The BRICS under China's de facto leadership, America's westward turn, Arab chaos, Australia rising, Russia's assertiveness (after having digested the loss of, inter alia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus) have reduced the EU to a second-class power, which is ironic given the fact that it remains an economic giant, walking around in baby clothes (quote by Norman Davies).  Regionalism can be a good thing as long as it is not self-destructive, leading to the rise of  provincial, almost fascist entities. Europe should learn lessons from the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia if it wants to avoid a similar sinister slippery slope.

Maybe we can still hope that out of Oslo there will come a message which skips generalities and instead suggests hard choices, forgoing self-congratulation for the sake of a renewed daring vision.  The speech is not that difficult to come up with, it is the visionary speaker who will be hard to find.  Only nonsense is abundant these days. Oslo's deliberations in camera probably resulted from the fact that the cocktails served were shaken not stirred.

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