After the absurdity of awarding President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize before he had actually done anything, there were many laughs and jeers at the decision to award this year’s prize to the European Union. But there is a good case to be made and it is well made by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (authors of Why Nations Fail) on their consistently fascinating blog. In summary, out of the ruins of post-war Europe, a peaceful and prosperous western, then central Europe was forged through the EU. Given how dreadful the conditions of Europe were in 1945, that is a remarkable achievement. The authors could have added that the incentive effects of the EU (match our high legal and human rights standards and you can join our market) have encouraged very positive reform in countries in Eastern Europe, some of which have joined (Bulgaria, Roumania) and others (Serbia, Albania) hope to some day.
All the more pity then, that the Eurozone mess has the potential to reverse that positive process and is already undermining support for the EU in Greece, Spain and Ireland. The latest official EU eurobarometer of public opinion (April 2012) concludes that: “Trust in the European Union has fallen since autumn 2011 and now stands at its lowest ever level (31%, -3 percentage points)” (p.13). Whatever you think about the Euro, the collapse of the EU would be an historic tragedy.