David Frum

10.13.12

Giving the EU its Nobel Due

My National Post column cheers the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.

On first hearing the news, it seems just crazy to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. Not quite “Let’s give it to Obama before he’s actually done anything” crazy (as in 2009) — but still, crazy.

It’s not just that the European Union is a big, amorphous bureaucratic entity. (Next winner: the International Postal Union.) Nor is it just that the real heavy-lifting of keeping the peace in Europe was done by another organization entirely, with a different membership list. (That would be NATO.) It’s not even that the Norwegians who award the prize have themselves repeatedly refused to join the EU they so admire. (They don’t want to share their oil wealth with Portugal and Greece, and who can blame them?)

The prize seems crazy because this award comes at precisely the moment when the European Union’s faults are throwing into misery people across southern Europe —and threatening to capsize the whole global economy.

It’s theoretically possible to imagine an EU that had never gotten itself into the Euro mess. Many in the EU opposed the currency-union idea, including future German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Some EU countries refused to join the Euro (Britain) or delayed entry sufficiently long as to avoid being dragged into the catastrophe (Poland). But the EU did get itself into the Euro mess, and it got into the mess for classically EU-type reasons.

The EU characteristically insists on regarding economic problems as political problems first and foremost. A currency is classically defined as a store of value and a medium of exchange. But the EU treated the Euro as an expression of an ideal. Unsurprisingly, a currency that exists to express ideals has flunked its economic functions.

What’s even weirder is that the Euro currency did the least harm to the country that most opposed it (Germany, which saw its exports soar); has done more harm to the country that most demanded it (France, which saw its exports collapse); and has done the most harm of all to the countries that thought themselves the biggest winners (Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece, which were lured into massive public and private borrowing they could not afford). European leaders gave so little thought to the economics of currency that they did not — or could not — calculate their own national advantage.

So boo to the Nobel committee?

Well … no. Not so fast.

Read the entire column at the National Post.