THERE are contrasting views of the European Union. The EU’s role in facilitating the peace process in Ireland elicits high praise, but its refusal to address the Catalan independence crisis invites derision.

John Hume, the foremost architect of the peace process in Ireland, reveals in his acceptance speech for the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize that he was very inspired by his European experience in working for peace. He submits that the EU is the best example in history of conflict resolution.

Addressing the European Parliament just days after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was signed, Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, welcomed Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam and David Andrews, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs, and observed there is no more noble a cause in political life than trying to bring people together in peace and reconciliation. Mowlam and Andrews addressed the European Parliament, and acknowledged the support provided by the EU in the pursuit of peace in Northern Ireland.

John Bruton, former Taoiseach, and former EU ambassador to the US, who was resolutely engaged in the peace process, famously proclaimed the EU is the world’s most successful body for advancing peace. He emphasised the EU is more than just a trade organisation, as it guarantees democracy, freedom, justice, and human rights.

Scenes of Spanish police trying to brutally suppress the independence referendum on October 1 by attacking peaceful Catalan voters bring to mind images of the unprovoked RUC attacks in 1968 that drew the attention of the world to Northern Ireland’s civil rights.

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, considered the claim by the Spanish government that Catalonia is an internal matter for Spain, and advised that it was only when there was international involvement in resolving the conflict in Northern Ireland that progress was made.

Yanis Varoufakis, former Syriza member of the Hellenic parliament, who is seeking to democratise the EU, is scathing of the EU for its hypocritical silence over the Spanish police violence in Catalonia.

Mark Demesmaeker, Belgian MEP, who maintains that core democratic values are at issue, expressed withering disapproval of the EU for its shameful response to the Catalan crisis.

The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU for the advancement of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights over six decades. Herman Van Rompuy, European Council President, reacted to news of the award by saying the EU is the biggest peacemaking institution ever created.

In his presentation speech for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, Thorbjorn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, contended that the EU has constantly been a central driving force towards reconciliation. He recognised that we must solve our problems together, and expresses the wish that good government prevail in Europe.

Acceptance speeches were made by Van Rompuy and European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso. President Van Rompuy affirmed the EU’s primary purpose is to build friendship between European nations. Barroso declared that true peace requires that people are confident, at one with their political system, and that their basic rights are respected.

Angela Merkel, German chancellor, said upholding peace, democracy and freedom demands relentless hard work. And François Hollande, French president, cautioned that the EU needs to prove worthy of the award. The Catalan crisis is affording the EU a chance to show that it is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Tomas O Gallchoir