The Nobel Peace Prize has endured for over a century as one of the most cherished honors available to humanitarians, philanthropists, and activists. But apparently, being a liberal is now a sufficient qualification in and of itself for consideration. Only three years after President Obama won this prestigious recognition shortly after being elected — and before he had the chance to implement virtually any meaningful policies — the European Union (EU) has been conferred the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, since they “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
Despite the fact that Europe is still struggling, following the financial crisis of 2008, members of the selection committee saw fit to hand out the award to an organization that has spent billions in bailout funds but failed to curb record unemployment or abate persisting concerns over its struggling currency. Since “[t]his year’s prize comes against a backdrop of protests as the debt crisis for countries using the euro currency triggers tensions within the union,” many observers have been left wondering at the honor’s odd timing.
Yet, this move comes as less of a surprise considering the relatively recent trend of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to make a political point. Whether to President Obama for claiming he would draw down American servicemen overseas or to former Vice President Al Gore for combating climate change, the award has been more and more frequently given to those who subscribe to certain liberal values. Mere words in support of this ideology — whether in the realm of science, economics, or military policy — have increasingly prevailed over real and substantive action. Agreement with the priorities held by those responsible for granting prizes now appears to be a substantial factor in choosing the annual winner.
Sadly, this change is only bound to temper the significance of the award. Over a period of many decades, the Nobel Peace Prize has become synonymous with the enduring work of the world’s most impactful and dynamic individuals. So rewarding the EU, during a moment when its very stability is under threat and after it has largely failed to meet the most important economic crisis in at least a generation, only diminishes the meaning of every other award already bestowed and undermines the credibility of each prize yet to be conferred.