London: While some Europeans swelled with pride after the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize, howls of derision erupted from the continent`s large band of skeptics.
To many in the 27-nation bloc, the EU is an unwieldy and unloved agglomeration overseen by a top-heavy bureaucracy devoted to creating arcane regulations about everything from cheese to fishing quotas.
Set up with noble goals after the devastation of World War II, the EU now appears to critics as impotent amid a debt crisis that has widened north-south divisions, threatened the euro currency and plunged several members, from Greece to Ireland to Spain, into economic turmoil.
The vocal anti-EU politicians known as euroskeptics burst into a chorus of disdain today.
"First Al Gore, then Obama, now this. Parody is redundant," tweeted Daniel Hannan, a euroskeptic European lawmaker - yes, such things exist - from Britain`s Conservative Party.
Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party - which wants Britain to withdraw from the union - called the peace prize "an absolute disgrace".
"Haven`t they had their eyes open?" he said, arguing that Europe was facing "increasing violence and division," with mass protests from Madrid to Athens over tax hikes and job cuts and growing resentment of Germany, the union`s rich and powerful economic anchor.
And Dutch populist lawmaker Geert Wilders scoffed: "Nobel prize for the EU. At a time (when) Brussels and all of Europe is collapsing in misery. What next?"
Britain, which has been an EU member since the 1970s but likes to keep an English Channel-wide distance between itself and the union, gave a muted reaction.
Prime Minister David Cameron`s office had no comment - a safe policy for the leader of a Conservative Party deeply divided between pro- and -anti-EU camps.
The Foreign Office noted, tersely, that the award "recognises the EU`s historic role in promoting peace and reconciliation in Europe, particularly through its enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe. The EU must always strive to preserve and strengthen those achievements."