The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its efforts to promote peace and democracy in Europe despite being in the midst of its biggest crisis since the bloc was created in the 1950s.
The Norwegian prize committee said the EU received the award for six decades of contributions “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.
“The stabilizing part played by the European Union has helped to transform a once torn Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said.
The EU rose from the ashes of World War II, born of the conviction that ever-closer economic ties would make sure that century-old enemies never turned on each other again. It’s now made up of 500 million people in 27 nations, with other nations lined up, waiting to join.
The idea of a united Europe began to take on a more defined shape when, on May 9, 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed that France and the Federal Republic of Germany pool their coal and steel resources in a new organization that other European countries could join.
“Today war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners,” the committee said.
The citation also noted the democratic conditions the EU has demanded of all those nations waiting to join, referred to Greece and Spain when they joined the 1980, and to the countries in Eastern Europe who sought EU membership after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
The prize focused on the EU’s historical role as a builder of peace at a time when the union’s existence is under challenge from the financial crisis that has stirred deep tensions between north and south and when there are questions about the form in which the EU will survive.
“The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest,” Jagland said. “The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result- the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.
“The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”
It was not yet clear who would accept the prize for the EU.
Recent winners of the Nobel Peace Prize
Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize since 1998
2012- The European Union.
2011- Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.
2010- Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
2009- U.S. President Barack Obama
2008- Martti Ahtisaari
2007- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Al Gore
2006- Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank
2005- International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei
2004- Wangari Maathai
2003- Shirin Ebadi
2002- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter
2001- United Nations, Kofi Annan
2000- Kim Dae—jung
1999- Medecins Sans Frontieres
1998- John Hume, David Trimble