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September 24, 2017

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Nobel Prizes have no real place in global politicking

What's more controversial — and more rightfully so — is the decision by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to the European Union.

The EU has been a symbol of reconciliation of post-war Europe and deserves the honor for its work "for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The problem is the timing of the choice.

The head of the committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, suggested that the choice is timed to have an impact on the current struggle over Europe's future amid the eurozone debt crisis. "We want to remind us all what can happen if disintegration starts and if we let extremism and nationalism start growing again in Europe," he said.

Such "Nobel activism" is problematic as it endangers the long-term prestige and authenticity of the Peace Prize by dragging it into day-to-day political quarrels. The decision to use the prize to make a splash is perhaps based on a noble idea to do good, but it is shortsighted.

What's worse, it probably will not work. In 2009 the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Barack Obama in the first year of his presidency. They made the decision in the hope of heralding an era of peaceful U.S. foreign policy. The prize, however, did not stop Obama from escalating the number of drone strikes in the Middle East. It did not stop him from authorizing a raid deep into Pakistan without the government's knowledge (let alone approval) to kill terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. Pakistan is not even an enemy of the U.S. — it is supposed to be an ally. The president's decisions are fundamentally based on U.S. national interests. If the prize fails to have significant influence on or to give significant help to somebody aspiring to be a "transformative" president of the world's strongest nation, what impact can it have on the huge bureaucracy in crisis that is the EU?

The news of the EU's prize win is already inspiring more nationalistic rage rather than quelling it. The Guardian reported that the decision was greeted with disbelief by many in Greece, with some saying that their nation is at an economic war partly because of the new Peace Prize winner.

The greatest asset of the Nobel Peace Prize is not its immediate impact but the fact that it celebrates achievements and noble deeds that will outlive our current worries and will set examples for humanity. To use the prize as a political tool is to ruin that invaluable asset.

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