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The Nobel Peace Prize: A wake-up call for an ailing European Union?

October 13th, 2012 - The timing could not have been more bizarre: Just when the European Union deals with its most fundamental crisis in history, when it seems so deprived of a mobilizing vision for the future and when it is contested by an increasingly sceptical political public, it receives the Nobel Peace Prize for its past achievements in promoting peace. Is it justified? It surely is. If one distances oneself only a little but from the media frenzy regarding the current crisis of the Euro the record of the European Union in historic terms is impressive: it has allowed for taming the nationalist fervour, putting an end to the European legacy of warfare, and assisting formerly authoritarian political regimes to grow into mature liberal democracies (in Western and Eastern Europe). The Nobel Peace Prize might serve as a wake-up call for the EU to realize that it needs to come up with a vision that moves the heart and minds of European citizens. Preventing a war on European soil might have been the appropriate idea for a post-war generation. Current Europeans are no longer moved by this idea (mainly due to its successful implementation). Even if not intended that way the Nobel Peace Prize has the promise to remind the current European political elite (and public) that the idea of Europe and the European Union as an institution is in dire need of new leadership and direction.

Oliver Schmidtke is Director for the Centre for Global Studies (CFGS) and Jean Monnet Chair in European Politics and History at the University of Victoria. You can reach Oliver for comments via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

See also the recent CTV News video clip "Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to EU" with Achim Hurrelmann, Carleton University. EUCAnet database lists over 50 EU experts in Canada.

Dr. Oliver Schmidtke and Dr. Achim Hurrelmann are part of a cross-Canada network of experts working on European policy issues, the Strategic Knowledge Cluster Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue.

Towards a Confrontation in Spain?

October 12th, 2012 -On September 27, the Catalan Parliament approved a resolution to hold a referendum on the political future of Catalonia. The head of the Catalan government, Artur Mas, announced that he would call elections for November 25 and seek to gain support for his referendum project in the new house. It is widely expected that Mas' moderate nationalist party Convergència i Unió (CiU), along with the secessionist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and a couple of other parties supportive of the public consultation idea, will together attain a parliamentary majority. How did we get there and what will happen next?

The answer to the first question is the economic crisis. Catalonia is severely indebted and many Catalans believe it is because Catalonia contributes more to the Spanish coffers than it gets in return. Artur Mas asked the Spanish government for a payment of 5 billion Euros (money he believes belongs to Catalonia) and/or for the creation of a Catalan tax agency to enable the Catalan government to levy its own taxes.  He was rebuffed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The sense that Catalonia, whose credit rating has been reduced to 'junk' status, is being taken down by the Spanish state and the rest of the country has become very strong.

The Spanish government has responded to these talks of a referendum in Catalonia by stating that it would be unconstitutional since sovereignty rests with the Spanish nation as a whole. Therefore, only the Spanish government could, from that perspective, organize a referendum on something that would affect the whole country. The King has come out and said that, in these difficult times for the country, unity was more than ever necessary. Some in the army have said that they would consider such referendum treasonous. In the face of this opposition, Mas and the ERC have simply said that they would go ahead with the project whether the Spanish government approved or not.

André Lecours' main research interests are Canadian politics, European politics, nationalism and
federalism with a focus on Catalonia and the Basque country. Dr. Lecours is the  author of Basque Nationalism and the Spanish State (University of Nevada Press, 2007). André Lecours is part of a cross-Canada network of experts working on European policy issues, the Strategic Knowledge Cluster Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue.

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