Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, the World Reacts

October 12, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Rose Garden of the White House on October 9, 2009 after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Rose Garden of the White House on October 9, 2009 after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
After nine months in the White House, President Barack Obama was the surprise winner of the world’s most prestigious peace prize, not so much for what he has done, but for what he promises to achieve.

Among the shocked was the president himself. "I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee,” Obama said in a press conference from the Rose Garden last Friday. "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize."

Obama wasn’t the only one shocked. Epoch Times reporters around the world have been gauging reactions to the Nobel decision. While heads of state were quick to send congratulations, other public figures, editorialists and the general public gave more mixed reviews. 


By Pirjo Svensson

In Sweden, reactions reflected sentiments of surprise, controversy, approval and being premature.

Jan Eliasson, a Swedish diplomat, former chair of United Nations General Assembly, and former Foreign Minister reacted positively.

“It is surprising, but I think it is positive,” said Jan Eliasson in the large Swedish evening newspaper, Aftonbladet.

Socialist Party foreign affairs spokesperson, Urban Ahlin, told the Svenska Dagbladet that the prize was premature. “The efforts Barack Obama has showed for peace, I don’t think today correspond to a peace prize … I would have gladly seen Obama receive the prize in a few years, when he had shown results from his efforts.”

Socialist Party leader Mona Sahlin, called it “good news” that showed the size of the expectations the world has for Obama’s presidency.


By Bohdan Skorbach

According to Vestee TV in Russia, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, sent a letter to the White House asking the U.S. President to return the Prize, believing the decision to be an act of provocation. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered congratulations, reported Russian media.


By Nina Hamrle

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the news saying, “Obama has set a new tone in the world,” reported Bild. Spiegel-Magazin and Sueddeutsche newspaper, two of Germany’s leading media, criticized the decision, the latter calling it “messiah-mania” and asked if the Nobel jury has lost their senses. The Spiegel argued that Obama hasn't brought change, and only made things worse, for example in Afghanistan, Iran, and the Middle-East.


By Joan Delaney

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered congratulations to his counterpart.

“I think it's a tremendous award to somebody who has obviously accomplished a great deal in his life, and I am very happy for him and his family,” said Harper at an event in Welland, Ontario.

Harry Sterling, a commentator and former diplomat, was more critical pointing out that “Nobel awards are supposed to be awarded for concrete accomplishments, not simply good intentions,” wrote Sterling in a Calgary Herald op-ed piece.


By Peter Sedik

In two readers’ polls in Slovakia, one by the main right-wing paper, the SME Daily, the other by the online news server aktualne.sk, 12 percent and 16 percent of respondents respectively felt that Obama deserved the prize.

Former Slovak ambassador to the USA, Martin Butora, told the Daily that the award represented the peak of fascination with Obama in certain circles and that it was given for what the President was staring to do. “It’s still questionable whether he manages to achieve them,” said Butora.

In a commentary cleverly called “Nobel Price for Artistic Impression,” the left-wing Pravda argued that Obama won not for he has done, but what he could do.


By Kremena Krumova

Obama received notes of congratulations from both President Georgi Parvanov and Prime Minister Boiko Borisov. Parvanov wrote, “Your winning the award is a natural result of your decisive steps towards strengthening inter-country relations and bringing closer people across the globe.”

However, blog commentators for the business-orientated weekly, Capital Newspaper, a leading publication considered politically independent, was sharply critical of the news. The Capital argued that Obama’s soft measures in North Korea, Venezuela and Iran have allowed those regimes to violate human rights even more fiercely, and they blame Obama for allowing the Taliban to become more aggressive.

The article likened this year’s choice to 1994 when Yaser Arafat—“a terrorist and murderer”—won. The newspaper appealed to the Nobel Committee to “stop doing politics” or the Prize would lose its reputation in the public eye.


By Sandra Flores

ABC, Spain’s leading right-wing newspaper declared Obama “a great dialogue defender with no concrete achievements.”

The more left-wing El Pais wrote: “Only hope can justify giving this monumental award to someone who has led the White House for just nine months, and has not yet harvested enough credit.”

Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said Obama's award was predictable. Mr. Zapatero will be the first head of state to meet with the new laureate after five years of strained relations with the White House largely due to Zapatero opposition to the Iraq war.


By Suman Srinivasan

From officialdom, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed his “wholehearted congratulations” to Obama at a press conference, then later released a longer statement lauding Obama’s for giving “primacy to dialogue” as an instrument of policy.

The Times of India, the nation’s largest newspaper, hailed the award as a "lifetime award for debutant Obama."

But Indian citizens gave the Nobel Committee more mixed reviews. On the Indian Express site, Khem Regmi wrote, “The decision of Nobel committee is very proactive and promoting the anti-war sentiment. Any peace-lovers welcome this reward for President Obama (sic).” Another reader, Gopal, asked, “What has Mr. Obama done to merit this award? He is yet to come to terms with his own country's economic condition and I am at a loss to understand as to what he has done for world peace.”


By Neli Magdalini Sfingopoulou

Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, issued a statement calling the award a '”fair recognition of the contribution of the [U.S. President] in the sacred cause of peace” and that ''the magnitude of this will certainly have an incentive for your actions as President of the United States.”

In the lively online commentary, a reader of Naftemporiki, a leading business publication, wrote “very smart, those Swedish people. If the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Napoleon at that time, maybe the war wouldn't have happened.”


By Dana Betlevy

“Obama, a Nobel Hope” read the headline in Il Quotidiano, summing up the opinion that the honor was given to Obama for what he promises to do.

“We learned during the Council of Ministers of the Nobel Prize for Peace to Barack Obama and we bestowed convinced applause,” said Prime Minister Berlusconi according to Il Messaggero.

However, the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Pierferdinando Casini, gave more guarded applause. “The Nobel Prize for Obama? I have not understood what he did … Hope that he will do in the future all the beautiful things that the Nobel hopes.”

Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the Holy See greeted the news with appreciation “in light of the commitment shown by the president to promote peace” and singling out Obama’s support for nuclear disarmament.


By Leigh Smith

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull praised Barack Obama and congratulated him on winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

“President Obama has already shown great leadership in international affairs, including in the fields of nuclear disarmament, global economic governance, climate change and human rights,” a spokesman for the prime minister said in a statement issued on Saturday.

Canberra Times said “that when Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency, he became overnight, a symbol of hope and unification. And a symbol can often prove more powerful than any action.”

The Age supported Obama’s win, stating that “on his watch the most powerful nation in the world has re-embraced a multilateral approach to dealing with global problems. That is certainly a contribution to world peace, even though no one can yet say where precisely it will lead, or what it may achieve.”