LONDON — 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 has become 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 further its goal of deeper integration. Yet the decision to pay tribute to the E.U. now fed into a growing chorus of critics who argue that the Norwegian Nobel Committee has strayed from the award’s original ideals and into the realm of political theater, with objectors putting this year’s choice in the same category as the selection of President Obama in 2009, just months after he took office.
The decision, announced to audible gasps from a roomful of journalists in Oslo, came amid the widespread international perception that the E.U. has wreaked havoc in global financial markets by being bureaucratic and plodding in managing the crisis. It has also been accused of foisting onto its heavily indebted members a crushing austerity that has crippled domestic economies and sparked unrest in Greece, Spain and other nations.