On Friday the Nobel Foundation took the unprecedented move of awarding the Noble Peace Prize to the European Union.
Between 1901 and 2011, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to 101 individuals and 20 organizations, but never to a country or geopolitical entity.
The closest the prize selection committee had come previously was the 2001 prize awarded to the United Nations as a whole. Previously several UN bodies, including UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UN peacekeepers, had received the prize.
While the UN is a diplomatic body - a forum for nations to meet and work together - the E.U. verges on being a super-state.
It is a vast empire of different ethnicities, languages and governments assembled, not by war, but by peace and mutual interest.
Seventeen of the E.U.'s 27 member countries share the same currency and all members must meet the so-called Copenhagen criteria: a democratic government, free market economy and rule of law.
All 27 members are required to uphold the E.U.'s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which enshrines citizens' rights in much the same way as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does here.
"The union and its forerunners have, for over six decades, contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe," the Nobel committee said in a statement announcing the award.
"The stabilizing part played by the E.U. has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace."
In case you think the decision is just a case of Europeans patting themselves on the back, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is selected by the Norwegian Noble Committee - a five-member group appointed by the Norwegian government. Norway is not an E.U. member state, so there is no home-team bias in the decision.
In fact, Norway has twice voted against joining the E.U. and the decision to award the prize to the European Union has drawn criticism from Norwegian lawmakers.
In Spain and Greece, the decision has been seen as a slap in the face by those who oppose the strict austerity measures the E.U. has imposed as a condition of an economic bailout package.
The fact that Germany, a country which brutally invaded and occupied Greece in the 1940s, would even consider bailing out its southern neighbours is a sign of how far Europe has come.
Critics of the E.U. forget how far Europe has come in the past 54 years since the formation of the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the E.U., in 1958.
The bloody aftermath of the Second World War was recent history then, not distant memory.
Eastern Europe was under the iron fist of Nikita Khrushchev's Soviet Union. Germany was an armed camp, sliced in half by NATO and Soviet forces.
Spain was a Fascist dictatorship under Francisco Franco. Greece was devastated by years of Nazi occupation, civil war and political instability.
The Balkans were bubbling with ethnic tensions, which would boil over into the civil wars and brutal atrocities of the 1990s.
Even in prosperous, relatively peaceful, Western Europe the threat of nuclear war with the Eastern Block was ever-present. In addition, Western Europe was coming to grips - sometimes violently - with the end of the colonial era.
France had just concluded a bloody war in Vietnam and was still fighting to hold onto Algeria. Portugal was just years away from fighting, and losing, three wars of independence in its former African colonies.
The United Kingdom had already been forced to approve the independence of India and Pakistan, and would soon surrender control of its colonial possessions in Africa. The U.K. still had The Troubles with North Ireland ahead of it.
The European Union's vision of reducing the risk of war by making countries' economies interdependent has been so successful that, as the Norwegian Noble Committee said, "Today war between Germany and France [or any two E.U. members] is unthinkable."
Those protesting in the streets of Greece would do well to remember that the last time Germany intervened in their country they came with bombers and tanks, not briefcases full of money.
-- Associate news editor Arthur Williams