The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union this morning for its success in turning a continent marked by war to one of peace. The award comes at an odd time, since Europe is experiencing significant financial strain and political tension.
Steve Evans, a correspondent with the BBC, explains the significance of this choice, and the mixed reactions its been met with.
"This institution is met with skepticism because of the mess currently going on in the Eurozone and beyond, but it was formed when France and Germany had memories of war against each other fresh in their minds," Steve Evans says of the European Union. "I think what the committee is trying to do is to say, let's remember the reason for the thing being formed in the first place."
But is this a "morale boost" for those who are struggling? Or is it a "cruel joke"?
"It is hard to see how the current situation within the European Union can be described harmonious," Evans says, describing the crippling unemployment rates, the rioting in the streets, and the growing nationalism in some of the countries that were hit hardest by the economic crisis. But the fact remains that, within living memory, Europe was a continent ravaged by war, and even genocide.
"This isn't about now, it's about the past," Evans explains. "It's about the institution which bound ancient enemies together."