Leaders: Europe’s Nobel Peace Prize is perhaps a fitting tribute

The Nobel medal. Picture: Getty
The Nobel medal. Picture: Getty
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CONGRATULATIONS! You are a Nobel prize-winner. So, too, are we at The Scotsman, as are all our fellow Scots, all our compatriot Britons and, indeed, all our neighbouring Euro­peans.

This is how José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, interprets the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union – as an accolade conferred upon all 500 million of its citizens.

So how does it feel? Some may be laughing hysterically. After all, the EU right now is perhaps more divided and more enfeebled than it has ever been. Many in Britain, perhaps even the majority, loathe the very initials and fervently wish that Britain was not a ­member.

Internal tensions over the Euro­pean sovereign debt crisis and the crippling costs of austerity for countries at the centre of it are provoking serious civil unrest.

No more dramatic symbol of the lack of unity can there have been than the sight of Greek anti-austerity protesters dressed as Nazi stormtroopers hurling abuse at visiting German chancellor Angela Merkel this week. The EU as a model for peace? The Norwegian judges surely must have been having a laugh.

And yet, and yet. If you stop to think about it for a moment, those swastikas brandished in Athens are also a reminder of the powerful need for an organisation like the EU. Those who did not live through the Second World War sometimes forget, but its ending and the crushing of a hideous ideology at a cost of nearly 50 million lives, the bloodiest war ever, made it ­imperative that it should never happen again. From that motivation came the European Coal and Steel Community, which grew into the European Economic Community and then enlarged into the European Union.

Look back through history, and this continent, the smallest and most densely populated on Earth, is also the most blood-soaked. ­Europeans have been at each other’s throats since ­mankind invented weapons. Scarcely a year has gone by in more than two millennia without there being a war, sometimes several, in some part of our continent.

Set against that dreadful backdrop, the post-war years have been remarkably peaceful. Yes, since European organisations came into being, there have been wars in the Balkans and conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Basque country. But the animosities between France and Germany have faded, dictatorships in Spain, Greece and Portugal have vanished, the subjugation of eastern Europe has ended, and those nations have been embraced into the democratic European family.

Europe, it is true, did not handle the eruption of internecine genocide in the Balkans well, but the admittance of Slovenia and the imminent arrival of Croatia and possibly Serbia into the EU is a healing process well under way.

Sometimes it takes outsiders, such as the non-EU Norwegians, to see things more clearly and put them in perspective.

Spotlight must stay on Savile

Grotesquely unbelievable though it seems, the late Sir Jimmy Savile now stands exposed as a paedophile and child molester on a monstrous scale. The outpouring of ­allegations of molestation and sex acts committed by him on under-age teenagers are too many for there to be any other conclusion. That police now say they are probing 340 potential cases of abuse, is simply horrific.

Some may wonder, since Savile is dead and buried, what is the point of a police investigation. The answers are several, and they are very clear.

First, it is obvious from some of the interviews given by his victims that what he did to them has blighted their lives and still provokes a horrible memory. Though there can be no trial, an investigation that concludes they were deeply wronged may help to heal.

Second, it seems there may have been a culture which said that, because he was a celebrity raising millions of pounds for extremely deserving charities, his crimes should be overlooked. That idea needs stamped out.

Third, some stories are beginning to emerge which claim that he was not alone and other people, including some celebrities still alive, may have been ­involved. These claims must be investigated.

Four, it is also clear, particularly if a former BBC producer is to be believed, that there was an institutional blind eye turned to his foul acts. Such institutions, whether they be the BBC or hospital managers, need to understand that they have a duty of care, not just to employees, but to visitors and patients.

This is a dark business that needs a cleansing light shone ­on it.