The Buzz

The EU's Origins in Economic Interests

You might expect Britain's leading left-of-center magazine to endorse awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. At least one New Statesman blogger did exactly that, deeming it a "brave defence" of the European project, which "has been a force for good in the past and remains a bulwark against further suffering in the future." But another writer there, David Allen Green, took the opposite view, calling the Nobel for the EU a "misconceived decision." Green also helpfully reminds us of the union's origins:

[S]trictly speaking, the European Union has existed only since 1993. Its (main) predecessor organization, the European Economic Community (established by treaty in 1957, some twelve years after the Second World War) was primarily a trading organization for some (but not all) of the countries on the western side of the Cold War. An important entity without any doubt, but certainly not the sole or even leading source of human rights and peace in Europe after 1945.

With regard to keeping the peace, Green agrees with TNI contributor James Joyner that Europe's lack of hostilities is better attributed to NATO than the EU. As for the advance of human rights, he suggests that the continent "owes far more to the European Convention of Human Rights than the EU."

Green's conclusion—that the EU is at root an organization concerned with economic prosperity—at first glance seems obvious, but in light of the hype created by the Nobel committee it suddenly appears provocative. He writes that the EU is first and foremost "a trading organisation with heady aspirations and ambitious institutions," and less a movement concerned with establishing internationalist norms such as peace and human rights.

It may be a supranational organization, but ultimately the EU looks out for its interests. And true to its roots as a free trade area, those interests are primarily economic.