Friday's announcement was considered a surprise to some, but a Norwegian broadcaster had reported the announcement an hour before it was officially made.
Making the announcement in Oslo, the head of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said the European Union's efforts toward "the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe" since the end of World War II had earned the 27-nation bloc the prize.
Jagland highlighted the reconciliation and continued good relationship between Germany and France as a key point in the decision to recognize the EU.
"Over a seventy-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars," he said. "Today, war between Germany and France is unthinkable."
Conditions of democracy placed on countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal before they were allowed to join the EU, and the opportunities for EU membership afforded to Central and Eastern European countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall, were also highlighted in the EU's track record.
The committee also illustrated the EU's continued commitment to democracy with the admission of Croatia as a member next year, and the discussion of membership for Turkey, which "has also advanced democracy and human rights in that country."
The German government has given its felicitations to the EU on receiving the prize, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert saying on Friday in Berlin that the prize was a "joy" to all.
He said the award was a confirmation and encouragement for the great project of peace that the EU had brought to the continent, adding that Merkel and her government congratulated the EU, its organs and the people who worked for it.
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said on Twitter that he was "deeply touched and honored" that the EU had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
mz/tj (Reuters, AFP)