13 Oct 2012

Disbelief about Nobel Peace Prize to EU

11:31 am on 13 October 2012

There is disbelief amongst demonstrators against austerity measures in Athens that the European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Committee said on Friday that the EU has contributed to the advancement of reconciliation, democracy and human rights over six decades.

However, there is recession and social unrest in many European countries and Greek protestors say the award mocks what they are going through.

Some of the fiercest objections came from Norway, home of the prize. Norway is not in the European Union and has voted twice against joining.

Nobel committee president Thorbjoern Jagland acknowledged the EU's financial problems and social unrest.

But he said the committee wanted to concentrate on the EU's work over six decades of advancing "peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights".

The EU had helped to transform Europe "from a continent of war to a continent of peace".

A BBC correspondent said the committee had picked a strange time to highlight the EU's achievements as the eurozone crisis has made the EU look more divided and fragile than it has for decades.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the award a "great honour".

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she regarded the Nobel as a "personal incentive" to build on six decades of peace in Europe.

President Francois Hollande of France said the EU needed to show it was "worthy" of the award.

The United Nations was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 and Medecins Sans Frontieres in 1999.