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The Foreign Office noted, tersely, that the award “recognizes the EU’s historic role in promoting peace and reconciliation in Europe,” and said the body “must always strive to preserve and strengthen those achievements.”

Conservative lawmaker and former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind, whose party is deeply divided on Britain’s role in the EU, probably spoke for many Britons when he called the decision slightly eccentric.

“If they want to give the prize for preserving the peace in Europe, they should divide it between NATO and the EU,” he said. “Until the end of the Cold War, it was NATO more than anyone else that kept the peace.”

Others praised the union’s role in reuniting post-Communist Europe but pointed out its failures — including the inability to halt the bloody Balkan wars that raged just outside the EU’s borders during the 1990s.

And Nicolas Beger, director of Amnesty International’s Brussels-based EU office, said the union was neglecting its duty to the rest of the world.

“The EU doesn’t even take remotely its fair share of the refugees of the world,” he said. “It closes its borders, it pushes people back into countries where they are being tortured, it lets them drown.”


Some Europeans wondered whether all of the EU’s 500 million residents could claim a share of the glory — and the $1.2 million prize money.

“I’ve just won the Nobel Peace Prize? How exciting,” tweeted CNN’s British talk show host Piers Morgan.

“As a member of the EU, I am delighted to accept the Nobel Peace Prize,” British playwright Dan Rebellato joked on Twitter. “I shall keep it in the spare room, in case people want to look at it.”

BBC business correspondent Robert Peston wondered whether everyone in the EU would get a share of the prize money, which works out to about a quarter of a cent per person.

“What will you spend yours on?” he asked followers on Twitter.