OSLO: The European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday, an award which some past winners called unjustified but European leaders defended for recognising the stability and democracy brought to the continent after two world wars.
The EU sent three of its presidents to collect the award at a ceremony in Oslo's City Hall attended by 20 EU heads of state and government. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were present while British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose relationship with the EU is troubled, did not attend.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the prize in 1984 for his campaign against South African apartheid, said it was wrong to recognise the EU as it was an organisation based on "military force", and others have criticised the decision because the bloc is mired in economic and financial crisis.
But the Norwegian Nobel committee that bestows the award focused on what the EU had achieved over the past six decades to bring peace and security to once-warring nations, and to stitch back together the torn fabric of the "old continent".
Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council that represents EU leaders, invoked his own family history to highlight how raw the memories of World War Two remain. "As a child born in Belgium just after the war, I heard the stories first hand," he said in his speech. "In 1940, my father, then 17, had to dig his own grave. He got away; otherwise I would not be here today.
"So what a bold bet it was for Europe's founders to say, yes, we can break this endless cycle of violence, we can stop the logic of vengeance, we can build a brighter future."
The Nobel prize money of $1.25million will be given to projects that help children struggling in war zones, with recipients to be announced next week.