EU rises in Peace Prize speculation

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UPDATED: Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, has often referred to the European Union (EU) as one of the greatest peace experiments of recent decades. Now the EU itself has risen as a candidate to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and Jagland dropped a few more hints before the prize was due to be announced Friday morning.

As head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland has been able to promote his European interests. As head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee some now wonder whether Jagland backs a Peace Prize for the EU, even though Norway never joined. PHOTO: Council of Europe,

Speculation until now has largely centered around the so-called “Arab Spring,” with several researchers and Peace Prize experts expecting that the Nobel Committee may want to recognize and reward the pro-democracy movements that have swept through Tunisia and Egypt and spread elsewhere around the Middle East and North Africa.

On Wednesday, however, Jagland said in an interview with Norwegian news bureau NTB that the Norwegian media, which have also topped their prize speculation with people and groups involved in the Arab Spring, “wasn’t looking” in the right direction.

“It’s an important prize and I think it will be praised,” Jagland told NTB. “I’m almost a bit amazed that the Norwegian media haven’t seen this. If you follow international media, it’s in the middle of the picture.”

That prompted speculation that Arab Spring participants haven’t been chosen, in turn leading to speculation that the prize may fall to one of Jagland’s favorites, the EU. Jagland, a former Labour Party politician in Norway and former prime minister, has been a longtime supporter of the EU as have at least one or two other members of the Nobel Committee including Kaci Kullman Five of the Conservative Party.

Norwegians, however, voted twice against joining the EU and no Norwegian government since the last referendum in 1994 has attempted to mount a new EU debate or election in Norway. Jagland, who retired from the Parliament two years ago, went on to become secretary general of the Council of Europe.

With the EU now facing serious problems because of the huge national debts of several member countries, a Nobel Peace Prize would be in keeping with Jagland’s apparent desire to use the Peace Prize to encourage winners. The EU is rooted not only in economic cooperation but as a means of hindering a new, devastating European war, while it also has played an active role in preserving peace among members and promoting peace abroad. Since the future of the EU’s monetary union is under threat, and some countries may withdraw, some prize watchers claim this could be “the last chance” to award a Peace Prize to the EU.

‘Brotherhood among nations’
Jagland offered a few more hints early Friday morning, telling Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “the issue we want to raise is important” but “can’t be tied directly” to speculation over the Arab Spring. “But it’s important,” Jagland repeated.

Jagland also claimed it was closely tied to Nobel’s will, which, he noted, calls for among other things “brotherhood among nations.” Jagland also repeated that he thinks this year’s prize will be praised and “embraced.”

Others tipped to win the Peace Prize this year remain Lina Ben Mhenni of Tunisia, Wael Ghonim and Israa Abdel Taffah of Egypt, representatives or users of social media and human rights activists including Malahat Nashibova of Azerbaijan, Lidia Yusupova of Chechnya and Svetlana Gannusjkina of Russia. Given the links between the Council of Europe and countries like Azerbaijan and Russia, however, Jagland may be caught in a conflict of interest on their candidates.

The prize will be announced at 11am in Oslo on Friday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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