The EU has won the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize and it is a well-deserved award too. In times when the daily news coverage is dominated by the woes of the eurozone this is a timely reminder of the Union's historic achievements. Too often people fail to see the wood for the trees as commentators and citizens end up discussing obscure bailout mechanisms, daily movements of interest rates on sovereign debt and Europe's economic policies. This narrow focus is not without consequences.
The growing distrust amongst European citizens and the accelerating erosion of Europe's political unity is the result of a disastrous course in economic policy that has made a serious crisis much worse. The lowest common denominator is that the Euro needs to be saved but the rest is beyond satire. People in crisis countries quite rightly feel that the help they receive comes with unbearable - and counterproductive - conditions that undermine their democracies, pride and dignity. And Germany is in the bizarre position that it does and will continue to provide large-scale financial help and is still loathed in Europe's south.
But all of these daily woes are put into perspective if you take a longer view and consider the achievements of six decades of European integration. Out of the rubbles of two world wars emerged an unprecedented political project that has brought peace and stability to a continent that was notoriously driven by war. Today an armed conflict between Germany and France is unthinkable. For this achievement alone the EU deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the Nobels do not only look into the past but send a message about the present day too. Given that the EU has a long history of nominations the timing of this award is no coincidence. The EU faces severe challenges and it is true that the historic achievement of European peace will not be enough to sustain the European integration project going forward. The future challenge of the Union is that it has to become a Union of citizens that ensures democratic, social and economic stability that can also be a role model for other troubled regions that seek to leave a history of war behind them and build a future of hope and prosperity.
In order to achieve this the EU will have to overcome its current crisis and reinvent itself. But when comparing the historic accomplishment of turning a blood-thirsty continent into an area of peace with the predicament of the eurozone, the current economic crisis looks utterly manageable. The Nobel Peace Prize is well deserved but it must not be solely seen as a recognition of past achievements but also as an encouragement to tackle the challenges of the future.