The European Union, facing its worst crisis in six decades, was officially awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize on Monday for turning Europe "from a continent of war to a continent of peace."
With a score of EU heads of state and government looking on, Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland handed the prize to a threesome of EU leaders -- EU president Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European parliament president Martin Schulz.
Recalling the 80 million European victims of war and extremism last century, Jagland said "together we must ensure that we do not lose what we have built on the ruins of the two world wars."
"Peace must not be taken for granted. We have to struggle for it everyday."
The Nobel Committee has come under criticism for giving the prestigious 2012 award to the EU at a time when it is beset by political division and shaken by violent anti-austerity protests.
"Europe needs to move forward, safeguard what has been gained, and improve what has been created, enabling us to solve the problems threatening the European community today," Jagland said.
"This is the only way to solve the problems created by the financial crisis, to everyone's benefit."