The choice to award the European Union with the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize quickly sparked controversy.
While most representatives of European institutions and members of European governments expressed delight, others criticized the decision as backward and overly politically motivated.
Euroskeptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus was quick to say that giving the prize to a bureaucratic institution, instead of a person, is tragic mistake, according to Czech CTK news.
“It is questionable whether the EU today contributes to any peace making,” Kristoffer Bernett-Cargill from the Swedish peace organization SPAS said, German D-Radio reported.
Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel wrote in his will in 1895, on which the Nobel foundation was later established, that the peace prize should be awarded to those “who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Giving this year’s Nobel honor to the EU has generated its share of cynical remarks, but it’s by no means the only controversial choice the Nobel Committee has made.
Here are the top five of the most controversial Nobel Peace Prizes awarded.
Henry A. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho
Henry Kissinger as adviser under four presidents and secretary of state for the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford was highly influential in shaping U.S. foreign policy for decades, including the Vietnam War.
The Nobel committee awarded the prize for his role in the 1973 Paris peace agreement with North Vietnam. The accord led to a cease-fire and the withdrawal of U.S. troops two years later.
Lec Duc Tho, Politburo member and negotiator for the North Vietnamese regime, declined the prize. In 1975 he led the effort to overthrow the South Vietnamese government, making the peace deal obsolete.
At the time of the awarding of the prize, a ceasefire had not yet become effective. In addition, the award was controversial and received poorly by the public because of Kissinger’s harsh handling of the Vietnam War and his influence in other armed conflicts around the world. The vocal anti-war movement saw it as an affront to award the Peace Prize to those they saw responsible for the conflict.
Two Nobel committee members resigned in protest over the controversy. Kissinger said he was too busy to personally come to Oslo to pick up the prize, and later tried to return it.
Carl von Ossietzky
Carl von Ossietzky, a pacifist and journalist, was a fierce critic of rearmament and political extremism in Germany in the 1930s. One month after Adolf Hitler took power he was sent to a concentration camp. He was awarded the prize while imprisoned. The selection of von Ossietzky caused a split within the Nobel Committee, with Norway fearing to be seen as interfering with German internal affairs. Norwegian King Haakon did not attend the awards ceremony. Hitler was greatly angered by the decision and issued a decree forbidding any German to receive a Nobel Prize. Von Ossietzky, who was not able to pick up the prize himself, soon died as a result of prolonged torture. This marked the first time that an individual working in opposition to his own government was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Though very controversial at that time, the award is now considered as one of the most successful ones.
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