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Coffee House

The Nobel Prize’s EU joke prompts questions about the nation state

12 October 2012

4:38 PM

12 October 2012

4:38 PM

The award of the Nobel Prize to the European Union is a tremendous joke; and like all great jokes it has brought people together. Commentators of left and right are united, for the most part, in condemning the Nobel Committee’s revision of history that claims the EU, a body that has only existed since 1993, deserves credit for securing ‘60 years of peace’ in Europe. Iain Martin and the legal commentator David Allen Green give the fullest accounts, rightly commending America’s enormous contribution to Europe since 1945.

The timing of the award adds to the general mirth because there can be little doubt that events in the Eurozone are threatening the European project; or indeed that the European project is the author of its own misfortune. The award of the prize has not hidden this existential strain; if anything, it has exposed it further.

Over at the books blog, I have an interview with Professor Mark Mazower, whose (excellent) book Governing the World: The History of an Idea argues that international institutions like the UN and EU, which primarily serve a western worldview, are in decline as economic and political power shifts to the east. He concludes with the stark phrase: ‘The idea of governing the world is becoming yesterday’s dream.’ Peering dimly into the uncertain future from the vantage point of the bewildering present, it is hard to dissent from his view. I asked Mazower if the western nation state, undermined for so long by globalisation, economic upheaval, international politics and apathy, is sufficiently strong to weather future challenges.

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