It is all the more remarkable that relationships as historically polarized as the ones between France and Germany, or Germany and the United Kingdom, have
been able to organize a new continental order based upon a single common market, the cornerstones of which are the free movement of people, goods,
services, and capital. Notable, too, is the evolution of the European Union from a commercial endeavor into a political enterprise with elected
representatives from all member states making up a transcontinental parliament.
The integration of new member states into these structures is also an astonishing feat. Greece, followed by Spain and Portugal, gained admission in the
1980s after their governments moved away from fascism, insularity, and dictatorship. The accession of the nations of Eastern Europe, the processes for
which began only a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was indispensable in terms of keeping those countries on democratic and capitalistic paths.
Next year, Croatia will follow Slovenia as one of the first former Yugoslav republics to join the union. With any luck, in the future the European Union
may be able to assimilate Serbia alongside an independent and sovereign Kosovo.
The European Union, in the spirit of multilaterism, should also be commended for the work it does outside its borders in the form of international aid. The
EU accounted for around half of the world's aid last year providing
some €53.1 billion ($68.8 billion). The European Commission alone -- union's executive branch -- spent €11.3 billion ($14.6 billion), making it the largest multilateral donor in the world and the
second-largest bilateral giver, after the United States. The largest beneficiary of funds is sub-Saharan Africa, with the money spent on education,
healthcare, and clean water, as well as post-emergency relief and reconstruction.
Of course, the European project has faltered -- the creation of the Euro and a monetary union without fiscal union was a mistake. Yet even in this case,
such deeds were done in pursuit of the ideal of a more united and harmonious continent. Helmut Kohl, who put a great deal of weight behind the
implementation of the single currency, was willing for Germany to sacrifice its strong and stable Deutschmark for the sake of the Euro and weaken his
country's economic independence in order to join the family of nations and reassure France and others that a reunified Germany would not seek to be the
dominant power in post-Soviet Europe. The idea was flawed but the sentiment behind it was a decent and noble one.
As the European project has taken off, particularly in the last 40 years or so, the Nobel Peace Prize has been granted to laureates whose credentials as
peacemakers are a matter of debate. Henry Kissinger was awarded the prize in 1973 for a peace treaty that did not hold, and his list of offenses against
concord and stability in places like Chile and the Soviet Union amongst others is disgracefully long. When Mother Teresa accepted her award in 1979, she
proclaimed, "the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion." Even today, Barack Obama's receipt of the Nobel before he'd even signed a single treaty
wound up devaluing the award.