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From war to peace: European Union accepts Nobel Prize

By Michael Pearson, CNN
December 10, 2012 -- Updated 1840 GMT (0240 HKT)
  • European Union has helped transform the continent, Nobel Committee chairman says
  • "What a bold bet it was," EU leader marvels of organization's founding
  • The EU will use the prize money to educate and protect children in conflict zones
  • Three Nobel laureates oppose the award

(CNN) -- Peace came to Europe on Monday, in the form of a golden medal.

Leaders of the European Union accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday, calling their organization a "perpetual peace congress" that had solved the problem of war on the continent.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 8 million kronor ($1.2 million) prize to the European Union in October for what it called more than "six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz traveled to Norway to accept the award, including the emblematic golden medal depicting prize founder Alfred Nobel in a ceremony at the ornate City Hall in Oslo, Norway.

Past Nobel Peace Prize winners
Barroso: EU deserves Nobel Peace Prize
The current state of the EU

"Our continent bears the scars of spears and swords, of cannons and guns, of trenches and tanks and more," Van Rompuy said. "What a bold bet it was for Europe's founders to say yes, yes we can, yes we can break this endless cycle of violence, we can stop the logic of vengeance, we can build a brighter future together."

Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee, said the award was well-deserved.

"What this continent has achieved is truly fantastic, from being a continent of war to becoming a continent of peace," he said. "In this process, the European Union has figured most prominently. It therefore deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

The award was not without controversy.

Three Nobel laureates -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel -- said the European Union doesn't qualify for the award and asked the prize board to withhold it.

"The EU is not seeking to realize Nobel´s demilitarized global peace order," the laureates wrote in a November letter.

In his acceptance speech, Van Rompuy seemed to sharply disagree, saying that the European Union has transformed the continent from a land of war to one in which the greater threat is glazing over during the organization's myriad policy debates.

"For this, boring politics is only a small price to pay," he said.

Barroso said the EU's influence and focus on human dignity and freedom are felt worldwide.

"As a community of nations that has overcome war and fought totalitarianism, we will always stand by those who are in pursuit of peace and human dignity," he said.

The EU will use the prize money -- doubling it with its own contributions -- to help protect and educate children in conflict zones.

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