In what may be the most bizarre decision in the history of the award, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union. All 27 nations and 500 million citizens. The Nobel committee cited the EU's contributions to "peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights" that have essentially kept the continent from tearing itself apart, the way it has so many times up to and including World War II.
In the long run, the decision certainly makes sense, as Europe is currently enjoying one of its longest eras of peace and stability since the Union was first born in 1952. After the two nations fought three wars in the span of 70 years, now "war between Germany and France is unthinkable." However, as many people are pointing out, awarding the prize to the EU in 2012 seems odd, when the Union itself is being threatened by economic turmoil and the currency union shared by most of its members appears to be a massive mistake. Given the current money problems, the prize of $1.2 million almost seems like mockery, though some are interpreting the decision as a giant pep talk for a continent that sorely needs a reminder of what it can accomplish.
Giving the Prize to an organization is also unusual, but not unprecedented. Something called the International Peace Bureau won all the way back in 1910 and other past recipients include the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and UNICEF. However, the 2012 award is likely to go down as one of the more head-scratching choices, like the awards for Yasser Arafat, Henry Kissinger, the International Atomic Energy Agency (after the the U.S. had already gone to war in Iraq), and Barack Obama, who won after less than a year in office as President.
In one final surprise, the decision was actually leaked and reported early by Norway's NRK public radio. Norway, where the Nobel Prize was born, is not even in the EU and has twice rejected appeals to join.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.