Thursday, December 06, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize winners blast the decision to give this year’s award to the European Union

Three Nobel Peace Prize winners have blasted the decision to give this year’s award to the European Union.

In an open letter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Northern Ireland’s Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina say that the EU is ‘clearly not one of the “champions of peace” Alfred Nobel had in mind’ when he created the prize in 1895.

They insist the 27-nation bloc’s values do not match those associated with the prize, and say the prize money of £750,000 should be withheld.

Stating that the EU condones ‘security based on military force and waging wars rather than insisting on the need for an alternative approach’, they add that it has failed to ‘realise Nobel’s demilitarised global peace order’.

‘The Norwegian Nobel committee has redefined and remodelled the prize in a manner that is not consistent with the law,’ their letter asserts, adding that the committee should respect the original wishes of the prize’s founder, who died in 1896.

The trio behind the letter are among the award’s most respected winners.

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, now 81, rose to fame in the 1980s as an outspoken opponent of apartheid in South Africa. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

Mrs Maguire, 68, won the 1976 prize for her ‘Women for Peace’ marches during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In recent years she has also been a noted critic of Israel’s policy towards Gaza.

Mr Esquivel, 81, is a pacifist, painter and sculptor who won the 1980 award for his defence of human rights against the Argentine junta.

Their letter was also signed by the Geneva-based International Peace Bureau, which won the award in 1910, and several authors, lawyers and peace activists.

Announcing this year’s award in October, the committee hailed the EU for transforming Europe ‘from a continent of war to a continent of peace’ in the decades following the Second World War. The controversial decision came as a surprise amid Europe’s crippling economic crisis. But while acknowledging Europe’s current financial problems and social unrest, Nobel committee president Thorbjoern Jagland said the decision was to herald six decades of advancing ‘peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights’.

Former winner: Northern Ireland's Mairead Maguire, who was awarded the prize in 1976, has also signed the open letter, which says the EU is not a 'champion of peace'

EU President Herman Van Rompuy called on all the bloc’s member states, along with soon-to-be-inducted Croatia, to send attendees to the ceremony.

But while German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have said they will attend, David Cameron leads the list of leaders who plan to snub the December 10 event in Oslo.

Eighteen European leaders have accepted an invitation while six others have declined, the Nobel Institute said yesterday.

The Nobel committee has rarely shied away from controversy with its choice of winner.

US President Barack Obama won the award in 2009, despite leading a country that was fighting two separate wars.

Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist and inventor, gave only vague guidelines for the peace prize, saying it should honour ‘work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.’

A prominent researcher and Nobel critic Fredrik Heffermehl – who also signed the letter – previously accused the Norwegian jury of gradually widening the scope of the prize to include environmental, humanitarian and other efforts by selecting winners such as President Obama.

The complaint led to a formal inquiry to see if the Nobel Peace Prize jury has deviated from its selection guidelines for winners, but it was later dropped.

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