Three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have contested the awarding of this year's prize to the European Union, saying the 27-nation bloc contradicts the values associated with the prize because it relies on military force to ensure security.
In an open letter to the Nobel Foundation, Tutu of South Africa, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina demanded that the prize money of 8 million kronor ($1.2 million) not be paid out this year.
The EU "clearly is not one of 'the champions of peace' Alfred Nobel had in mind" when he created the prize by including it in his will in 1895, they wrote in the letter, a copy of which was acquired by the AP on Friday. "We ask the board of the foundation to clarify that it cannot and will not pay the prize from its funds."
They said the EU condones "security based on military force and waging wars rather than insisting on the need for an alternative approach."
Tutu won the prize in 1984 for his nonviolent struggle against apartheid. Maguire was cited for seeking a peaceful resolution to the troubles in Northern Ireland in 1976, while the 1980 winner Esquivel was honored for work in advancing human rights in Argentina.
The Norwegian Nobel award committee chose the EU for promoting "peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights" in Europe for six decades following the devastation of World War II.
The letter, dated Wednesday, said the bloc had failed "to realize Nobel's global peace order ... (and) the Norwegian Nobel Committee has redefined and reshaped the prize in a way that is not in accordance with the law."
It was also signed by the Geneva-based International Peace Bureau, which won the award in 1910, and several authors, lawyers and peace activists.
Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the committee had encountered similar criticism before.
"Such criticism is never desirable, but the committee has several times discussed the claims and concluded that (this year's award) is indeed in line with Nobel's will," Lundestad said.
There was no immediate response from the EU headquarters in Brussels.
Nobel, a Swedish industrialist and inventor, gave only vague guidelines for the peace prize, saying it should honor "work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
A prominent researcher and Nobel critic Fredrik Heffermehl — who also signed the letter — previously accused the Norwegian jury of gradually widening the scope of the prize to include environmental, humanitarian and other efforts by selecting winners such as U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009. The complaint led to a formal inquiry to see if the Nobel Peace Prize jury has deviated from its selection guidelines for winners, but it was later dropped.
The awards are handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death. The peace ceremony is in Oslo while the other awards — in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and economics — are feted in Stockholm.
Associated Press writers Bjoern Amland in Oslo and Jon Gambrell in Johannesburg contributed to this report.