The European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its long-term role in uniting the continent. The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised the 27-nation EU for rebuilding after World War Two and for its role in spreading stability to former communist countries after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

Today's EU began in Paris in 1951, when Jean Monnet, the French civil servant widely regarded as the architect of European unity, set up the European Coal and Steel Community, a club of six nations: France, West Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. The idea was to deprive any individual country of control over materials intrinsic to any conflict.

After the collapse of communism, symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a region divided by the Cold War was knitted together as a community of democracies.

The Common Agricultural Policy was one of the most controversial of the EU's activities. Designed to ensure steady prices for farmers it encouraged over-production, high prices to the producer and expensive food for the customer.

Another common policy was the EU's currency plan, when it launched the euro in 2002 -- a single currency for all EU countries designed to strengthen economic and political cooperation. The single currency has come under pressure in recent years with the financial crisis seeing several EU countries struggling to make ends meet.

The last organisation to be given the award outright was Medecins Sans Frontieres, which won in 1999, and it is hoped this this award will be seen as a morale boost for the bloc, as it struggles to resolve its debt crisis.

Written and presented by Ann Salter.