The European Union has been officially awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Norway.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny joined around 20 other EU leaders in Oslo for the awards ceremony.

The Chair of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said the award was both deserved and necessary.

He said the EU needs to move forward to consolidate the efforts, which delivered a continent of peace.

According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the most dramatic example in history of how war can be turned into peace and cooperation is today's friendship between Germany and France.

Chairman Jagland told the delegates at Oslo's City Hall that the EU had brought France and Germany to such a point that war between them was not just unthinkable but materially impossible.

Bringing a resounding round of applause, he said the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande was very symbolic for everyone in the room.

While he noted that the eurozone debt crisis had caused great difficulties, Mr Jagland said the EU needed to move forward with the basic principles of democracy, human rights and cooperation which have served it well.

Mr Jagland touched on the Bosnian war - the EU has been heavily criticised for failing to end the conflict.

He said people would never forget Srebrenica in which 8,000 men and boys were killed, however he added the EU was laying foundations of peace in Balkans, with the EU becoming a full-member in July next year.

However, the fact that many EU states export arms has led to three former recipients of the peace prize - including Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland - to argue the EU should not have qualified.

The EU has said it will give the prize money to support educational projects for children in conflict regions.

Millions affected by EU decisions

The EU has grown 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.

It now stretches from Portugal to Romania, Finland to Malta and sets rules and regulations that have a bearing on more than 500m people.

"The stabilising 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 12 October when it announced the EU had won.

"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," it added.