(Newsroom America) -- The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 to the European Union, noting that the Union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.
"It is a tremendous honour for the European Union to be awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize," said President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso in a joint statement.
"This Prize is the strongest possible recognition of the deep political motives behind our Union: the unique effort by ever more European states to overcome war and divisions and to jointly shape a continent of peace and prosperity. It is a Prize not just for the project and the institutions embodying a common interest, but for the 500 million citizens living in our Union," the statement said.
At its origins the European Union brought together nations emerging from the ruins of devastating World Wars – which originated on the continent – and united them in a project for peace.
Over the past sixty years, the European Union has reunified a continent split by the Cold War around values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
"These are also the values that the European Union promotes in order to make the world a better place for all. The European Union will continue to promote peace and security in the countries close to us and in the world at large. We are proud that the European Union is the world's largest provider of development assistance and humanitarian aid and is at the forefront of global efforts to fight climate change and promote global public goods.
"This Nobel Peace Prize shows that in these difficult times the European Union remains an inspiration for leaders and citizens all over the world."
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said: "I am delighted at the news that the European Union has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of its work on reconciliation, democracy, promotion of human rights and in enlarging the area of peace and stability across the continent.
"In the countries of the EU, historic enemies have become close partners and friends. I am proud to be part of continuing this work. The creation of the European External Action Service has enabled us to develop a comprehensive approach to better promote Europe's core values throughout the world.
"I will continue to work tirelessly to drive this process forward."