The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for promoting peace, democracy and human rights over six decades in an award seen as a morale boost as the bloc struggles to resolve its economic crisis.
The award served as a reminder that the EU had largely brought peace to a continent which tore itself apart in two world wars in which tens of millions died.
The EU has transformed most of Europe from a continent of wars to a continent of peace, Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland said in announcing the award in Oslo.
The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights, he said.
Jaglund praised the EU for rebuilding Europe after World War Two and for its role in spreading stability after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The debt crisis afflicting the single currency zone has brought economic instability to several member states, and rioting has erupted on the streets of Athens and Madrid as austerity measures have bitten hard.
The prize, worth 1.2 million dollars, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10. The decision by the five-member panel, led by Jagland who is also Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, was unanimous.
The EU won from a field of 231 candidates including Russian dissidents and religious leaders working for Muslim-Christian reconciliation.
Conceived in secret at a chateau near Brussels, what is now the European Union was created by the 1957 Treaty of Rome, signed with great fanfare in the Italian capital's 15th century Palazzo dei Conservatori.