The European Union’s unexpected receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize (see also) has instigated discussion regarding the EU’s model of governance, which focuses on peace amongst the European nations as an ideal that Europeans must continually strive for, even in the face of iterative setbacks.  Given the enormous number of people and countries involved (twenty-seven countries consisting of 500 million people, and growing), achieving enduring peace across the European continent is no easy task. One key way that the European Union works towards peace amongst its vast diversity of peoples, however, is through its parliamentary and legal system, which requires harmonization of national Member State laws with the overarching laws of the European Union. An ultimate goal of the EU is to harmonize EU values within the national legal framework of Member States and thus increase the chance of stability and peace amongst the Member States by setting common baseline values throughout the continent.

On October 4, 2012, an example of such measures to harmonize national laws with EU law was presented when the European Council adopted by overwhelming majority an EU Directive (that passed with an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament) which addresses the rights of European citizens who fall victim to crime when they are travelling outside their home country. Given the ease and frequency of travel, transportation and general movement amongst the Member States, it is quite understandable that European travelers could easily and frequently fall victim to crime while outside their home country.  However, until the initiation of the victims’ rights law, European citizens who fell victim to crime while outside their home country could face discriminatory laws that would dis-allow them from obtaining the same relief that nationals could receive.

This was the issue in Cowan v. Tresor Public, a case decided by the European Court of Justice in 1989 that involved a British man who was robbed and injured in Paris and was subsequently denied compensation that the French government provided to victims of assault who were of French nationality.  The ECJ held that such compensation schemes discriminated based on nationality and should be accessible to all Europeans.  The framework laid out in this new EU Directive on victims’  rights requires minimum standards that member states must adopt that will ensure that European victims are protected in any of the twenty-seven member states where they may fall victim to crime.

Given that the EU has a mandate to ensure that EU citizens moving within its borders are protected, (TEU Title I, Article 3: “The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.”) this directive should ultimately result in Member State countries incorporating the minimum standards into their own national frameworks and have the effect of increasing the equal treatment of Europeans throughout the Union, which is a fundamental component of peace amongst diverse peoples.  In contrast to the contention that has ensued amongst some since the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize, the passage of this law provides one example of why the EU merited the prize.