Despite debt crisis, EU wins Peace Nobel
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The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its 2012 peace prize on Friday to the 27-nation European Union, lauding its role over six decades in building peace and reconciliation among enemies who fought Europe's bloodiest wars, even as the continent wrestles with economic strife that threatens its cohesion and future.
The award surprised some people who noted the deep strains between Germany and other European nations over Berlin's insistence on austerity measures that have brought pain to many Europeans, particularly in Greece and Spain. Thousands of protesters turned out in Athens earlier this week to demonstrate against a visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
But Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the panel awarding the prize, said it was a signal focussing on the union's historical role binding France and Germany together after World War II and its perceived impact in spreading reconciliation and democracy beyond the Iron Curtain that once divided Europe and to the Balkans. "The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace," he said.
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said the award proved that the European body was "something very precious."
"It is justified recognition for a unique project that works for the benefit of its citizens and also for the benefit of the world," he said. "The award today by the Nobel committee shows that, even in these difficult times, the European Union remains an inspiration for countries and people all over the world and that the international community needs a strong European Union."
Norway is not a member of the European Union and Jagland said some people in his country were not aware of the historical role it had played. "The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe," Jagland said.
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