OSLO - The European Union will receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo on Monday, honored by the Norwegian committee for bringing decades of peace and democracy to Europe after the horrors and division of two world wars.

Looking beyond the current, deep malaise Europe finds itself in with slumping growth, soaring unemployment and countries unable to pay their debts, the Nobel committee has instead focused on what the EU has done over the past 60 years to reconcile the disparate, warring corners of the 'old continent'.

From just six countries who agreed to pool their coal and steel production in the 1950s to 27 member states today - and 28 once Croatia joins next year - the EU now stretches from Portugal to Romania, Finland to Malta and sets rules and regulations that have a bearing on more than 500 million people.

"The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace," the Nobel committee said on October 12 when it announced the EU had won, an unexpected decision.

"The division between East and West has to a large extent been brought to an end; democracy has been strengthened; many ethnically based national conflicts have been settled."

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