European Union leaders Friday congratulated the three women Nobel peace prize winners, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and human rights activists Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakul Karman of Yemen, and praised their contribution to peace and womens'' rights. "The decision of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is in recognition of the pivotal role that women play in the peaceful settlement of conflicts and democratic transformation throughout the world," said EU President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in a joint statement. "This is a victory for a new democratic Africa and for a new democratic Arab world that live in peace and respect for human rights," they stressed. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in a separate statement said she views "this award as a reflection of the hopes that all three prize winners have raised globally, through their relentless fight for peace, democracy and the improvement of women''s rights in their own countries and beyond." The President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek said "Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman are icons of our time for all humanity." "I am pleased that the Committee has awarded the prize to three outstanding women this year," he added in a statement.