The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a choice that celebrates Europe’s post-World War II economic and political integration but comes as the 27-nation body confronts widespread criticism over its handling of a massive debt crisis that is by far the biggest challenge of its existence.
The award honored the struggle in Europe to not only hold the union together in the wake of the debt crisis, but also to deepen integration across a vast swath of the region stretching from the isles of Greece to the Scottish Highlands, from the ports of Portugal to northern Finland.
But the choice, announced to audible gasps from a room of journalists in Oslo, comes as the E.U. has come under international fire for its bureaucratic and plodding handling of the crisis, as well as for foisting onto its heavily indebted members a crushing austerity that has crippled domestic economies and sparked social unrest in nations such as Greece and Spain.
Read More: 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Is Awarded To The European Union