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You're reading: EU detractors slam Nobel Peace Prize decision

LONDON — While some Europeans swelled with pride after the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize, howls of derision erupted from the continent's large band of skeptics.

To many in the 27-nation bloc, the EU is an unwieldy
and unloved agglomeration overseen by a top-heavy bureaucracy devoted to
creating arcane regulations about everything from cheese to fishing
quotas. Set up with noble goals after the devastation of World War II,
the EU now appears to critics as impotent amid a debt crisis that has
widened north-south divisions, threatened the euro currency and plunged
several members, from Greece to Ireland to Spain, into economic turmoil.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

The vocal anti-EU politicians known as euroskeptics burst into a chorus of disdain Friday.

“First
Al Gore, then Obama, now this. Parody is redundant,” tweeted Daniel
Hannan, a euroskeptic European lawmaker — yes, such things exist — from
Britain’s Conservative Party.

Nigel Farage, head of the U.K.
Independence Party — which wants Britain to withdraw from the union —
called the peace prize “an absolute disgrace.”

“Haven’t they had
their eyes open?” he said, arguing that Europe was facing “increasing
violence and division,” with mass protests from Madrid to Athens over
tax hikes and job cuts and growing resentment of Germany, the union’s
rich and powerful economic anchor.

And Dutch populist lawmaker
Geert Wilders scoffed: “Nobel prize for the EU. At a time (when)
Brussels and all of Europe is collapsing in misery. What next?”

THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING

Britain,
which has been an EU member since the 1970s but likes to keep an
English Channel-wide distance between itself and the union, gave a muted
reaction. Prime Minister David Cameron’s office had no comment — a safe
policy for the leader of a Conservative Party deeply divided between
pro- and -anti-EU camps.

The Foreign Office noted, tersely, that
the award “recognizes the EU’s historic role in promoting peace and
reconciliation in Europe, particularly through its enlargement to
Central and Eastern Europe. The EU must always strive to preserve and
strengthen those achievements.”

Conservative lawmaker and former
foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind, whose party is deeply divided on
Britain’s role in the EU, probably spoke for many Britons when he called
the decision slightly eccentric.

“If they want to give the prize
for preserving the peace in Europe, they should divide it between NATO
and the EU,” he said. “Until the end of the Cold War, it was NATO more
than anyone else that kept the peace.”

Others praised the union’s
role in reuniting post-Communist Europe but pointed out its greatest
failure — the inability to halt the bloody Balkan wars that raged just
outside the EU’s borders during the 1990s.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

Some
Europeans wondered whether all of the EU’s 500 million residents could
claim a share of the glory — and the $1.2 million prize money.

“I’ve just won the Nobel Peace Prize? How exciting,” tweeted CNN’s British talk show host Piers Morgan.

“As
a member of the EU, I am delighted to accept the Nobel Peace Prize,”
joked British playwright Dan Rebellato on Twitter. “I shall keep it in
the spare room, in case people want to look at it.”

BBC business
correspondent Robert Peston wondered whether everyone in the EU would
get a share of the prize money, which works out to about a quarter of a
cent per person.

“What will you spend yours on?” he asked followers on Twitter.

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