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Europe’s Eyes on the Prize

LONDON – Institutions are not lovable. They are rule-bound and dull; they have routines, committees, agendas, budgets – and rows about budgets. If they are successful, they go on forever.

Prizes are for heroes. Like heroes, prizes blaze and are gone. Prizes belong to those who make great discoveries, write great poems, or discover new ways of living – to the bringers of new things. Institutions are dull – that is their purpose – but those who found them may also be creators, even heroes.

There is no single founder of the European Union. Many people, perhaps even hundreds, contributed. But, as the EU accepts the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012, three in particular deserve to be honored.

Robert Schuman was born in Luxembourg in 1886. A German citizen who served in World War I, he became a Frenchman when Alsace-Lorraine was restored to France. During World War II, involved with the Resistance, he was arrested and interrogated. He escaped and survived, all the while continuing to believe in Germany’s defeat and in Franco-German reconciliation. After the war, he returned to politics.