The announcement of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize has thus far been met mostly with consternation in Europe. As in the U.S., most commentators view his intentions positively but consider the award to be premature, with the President not even a year into his term and having few concrete accomplishments to his name.


Bertrand Badie, interviewed in Le Monde:

[T]he commission was trying to reenforce the moral authority of the President at the very moment that it recedes in the face of international realities. … The committee has to be viewed as an international non-govermental actor, representative of a particular strain of international public opinion. [The award] to some extent, obliges Obama to stick to his current approach.

Corine Lesnes, also in Le Monde, disagreed, arguing that Obama “will not let himself be restrained in his options by a prize such as this one.”

The German left-wing daily die taz questioned the award also, stating that Obama “had not produced any actual results yet, nor shown himself to be a pacifist.” Bettina Gaus believed the award set the wrong example: “So far, the prize had always been awarded for deeds not anouncements.”

The other side of the political spectrum agreed.  The Times: “[T]he Nobel committee’s award to President Obama demeans the peace prize.”

A European consensus largely exists: “The reality is that the prize appears to have been awarded to Barack Obama for what he is not. For not being George W Bush. Or rather being less like the last president.” (The Guardian, Aftonbladet, FAZ)

Le Monde notes:

The deadline for nominating candidates had been February 1 this year. At that point Barack Obama had been President for 11 days. The five Norwegian members of the Nobel committee can propose candidates for a few weeks longer, until their first meeting at the end of February. It is clear that Obama’s nomination was based on nothing more but campaign promises.

Another Times piece points out that “the award is also an example of what Nobel scholars call the growing aspirational trend of Nobel committees over the past three decades, by which awards are given not for what has been achieved but in support of the cause being fought for.” Le Figaro is similarly of the opinion that the committee has done a disservice to Obama since “if this prize still has any relevence, it can only serve to complicate his task.”

European commentators from the left and right, with some exceptions of course, tend to agree that the award should not have been given to President Obama at the present. Left-leaning analysts see the prize as coming prematurely and before Obama’s well-intentioned policies have borne fruits, while right-leaning papers see the award as ridicolous political positioning by the Nobel committee.

Benjamin Preisler is an intern with the New Atlanticist. He recently earned his M.A. in North American Studies and Political Science from the Free University Berlin.  Translations from non-English language sources are his own.