Last updated: February 17. 2013 9:51AM - 73 Views

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OSLO, Norway — For fostering peace on a continent ravaged by war, the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. The Norwegian prize jury urged all Europeans to remember those efforts as they tackle the debt crisis tearing at the 27-nation bloc.


The award was hailed at EU headquarters in Brussels and by pro-EU government leaders across the continent but derided by "euroskeptics" who consider the EU an elitist superstate that strips citizens of their rights and erodes national identities.


The announcement was met with mixed reactions in debt-ridden countries like Spain and Greece, where many blame Germany and other northern EU neighbors for the painful austerity measures like higher taxes and job cuts they have endured to salvage their floundering economies.


"The peace prize?" said Giorgos Dertilis, who works at an insurance company in Athens. "The way things are going, what will happen in the immediate future? Peace is the one thing we might not have."


The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored the EU for promoting "peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights" in Europe for six decades following the tremendous devastation of World War II.


The bloc is now made up of 500 million people in 27 nations, with other nations lined up, waiting to join.


But European unity is being threatened by the debt crisis that has stirred deep tensions between north and south.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Nobel committee had made a "wonderful decision," and linked it to attempts to salvage the euro even though the judges didn't mention those efforts specifically.


Others ridiculed the decision, as reactions to the $1.2 million award crackled over social media.

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