This article first appeared in the 11 December online edition of An Phoblacht
BISHOP DESMOND TUTU has criticised the Nobel Prize for Peace being given to the EU on Monday at a ceremony Taoiseach Enda Kenny was keen to cash in on, turning up as a bit player.
EU member states account for one third of global arms sales.
Anti-apartheid stalwart Tutu said that rather than building peace the EU created “security based on military force and waging wars rather than insisting on the need for an alternative approach”.
Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjoern Jagland presented European leaders with the Nobel Prize for Peace and praised the EU’s role in transforming Europe from a “continent of war” into a “continent of peace”.
Greek lawmaker Dimitris Kodelas of the left-wing Syriza party said:
“When we heard that the Nobel Prize for peace would be given to the European Union, we first thought it was a joke.”
Nobel Prize laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel shared Tutu’s concerns about the appropriateness of the prize being given to the EU.
The night before the award ceremony, hundreds of demonstrators held a torch-lit vigil in Oslo to criticise the selection of the EU, which accounts for one-third of global arms sales. Speaking at the demonstration, Hedda Langemyr, of the Norwegian Peace Council, told reporters:
“It is not only the [EU] member states that export weapons, and it’s not only the member states facilitating the weapon industry, but it’s also the EU on an institutional level. And that is the main reason I’m here to contradict this prize.”
While EU countries claim not to export weapons to countries at war or breaching human rights and are asked to comply with eight basic criteria contained in a common EU position paper, in reality there are very few restrictions in place, says the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT).
Recently, German news magazine Der Spiegel said that, in 2010 alone, EU countries exported €3.3billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, dominated by an anti-democratic, royal dynasty and a regime notorious for its violations of human rights.
In November, British Prime Minister David Cameron used a trip to the Middle East to promote the British arms industry and spearhead an attempt to sell British Typhoon fighter jets to Saudia Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
The decision was criticised by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas who said:
“It’s time to urgently review our role in the international arms trade. Our economy may need a boost but we certainly don't need this dirty money.”