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"After the Nobel Peace Prize"

Kronik i The International Herald Tribune den 9. december 2012 

By David Miliband and Nicolai Wammen.

“THE Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”

With these words the Nobel committee is set to award the peace prize to the European Union at a ceremony in Oslo on Monday. The European Union has helped turn age-old military enemies in Europe into political and economic partners, making another great war in Europe unthinkable.

As a Dane and a Brit, who were in our formative years when the Berlin Wall fell, and the E.U. enlarged to take in countries of Central and Eastern Europe, we believe that the peace prize is merited — as a reminder of history and a pointer to the future. European cooperation cannot become a long-lost fad of the second half of the 20th century. It needs to be modernized — not abandoned — for the still new century.

In today’s global village, it is tempting but wrong to think that neighborhood no longer matters. As shown most recently by the Pacific Alliance in Latin America (Chile, Columbia, Peru and Mexico), sub-regional and regional cooperation is the obvious response when interdependence is real and global governance weak. Problems do not respect national borders, and so we must adapt our politics to make it effective.

It is easy to write off Europe at the moment. It hurts that the euro zone and its crisis are seen as a risk for the global economy. But the strengths of the European Union and its member states, from trade balance to strong legal order and resilient populations, remain massive.

Our two countries are not in the euro zone. Bold leadership to save the euro is necessary for the future of the whole European Union. But it is not enough. We need to strengthen the effectiveness of the union of 27 nations — soon to be 28 with the entry of Croatia. That means the institutions of the whole Union, from the European Commission to the Council of Ministers to the Parliament, standing up for the interests of the whole Union.

The primary focus needs to be to overcome the “delivery deficit” that is a drain not just on popular support for the E.U., but on opportunity and security for our populations. The transformation to a greener economy, extension of the single market and management of energy security require cooperation across the divide between euro ins and euro outs. That is why we both oppose the idea that Britain should become part of a European “outer ring” with Norway and Switzerland. If Britain chooses to leave the E.U., it will end in tears.

Some people are scared of European foreign policy as we know it today. We are not. It is based on consensus, but that does not mean lowest common denominator. Europe has strong interests and important values. Our neighbourhoods to the east toward Russia and south into the Middle East are crucibles of democratic struggle today. Out of interest and morality, Europeans should be playing a role, and the EU. can help.

At a time, when the European project — and not just the euro — is facing serious headwinds, and when the debt crisis, high unemployment and inadequate economic growth is causing millions of Europeans to ask whether the E.U. has a future at all, we are convinced that if the Union did not exist then Europeans would have to invent it.

They would do so because the current crisis has made it abundantly clear that there is a need for European solutions to underpin the crisis management and structural reform undertaken at the national level. They would do so because they would realize that no single European state has the size, the economy or the defense budget to go it alone on the big global issues like climate change, trade liberalization and conflict prevention. They would do so because geography, as well as history, has not been ended by the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

When Balkan countries strive to become E.U. members, and when countries outside Europe look toward the E.U. for inspiration, it is because this unique cooperation has played a key role in advancing peace and security for more than 50 years. In this our forbears, who really deserve to be collecting the prize, were ahead of their time. We must not waste their legacy.

David Miliband is a member of the British Parliament and former foreign secretary (2007-2010). Nicolai Wammen is the Danish minister for European affairs.