No wonder the award of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union was greeted by sniggers. It seems silly enough to be lionising any political alliance. With the euro in meltdown, Catalonia threatening to secede from Spain, and the German Chancellor's visit to Athens greeted by angry crowds (and at least one Hitler impersonator), it starts to look like the committee in Oslo is making a joke.
Nor does history offer much consolation. In fact, with any number of examples to draw on – the three-way win by Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin "for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East" springs to mind – the pessimist might judge the prize as much a kiss of death as a recognition of achievement.
With time to consider, however, perhaps the panel's thinking is not so eccentric after all. The EU has indeed been advancing peace in Europe for six decades, healing the wounds of the Second World War and forging, from the wreckage of appalling conflict, a culture of reconciliation, tolerance and alliance that has become a global standard. With so much strain now placed upon the union, and with many so eager to talk the whole grand experiment in to history's dustbin, it is, perhaps, exactly the right time to honour all the EU has achieved and all for which it stands.
The only question now, of course, is who will go up to collect the prize?