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Nobel laureates receive awards in ceremony clouded by controversy

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A banner protesting against 2019 Nobel literature prize laureate Peter Handke is seen at the Stockholm Concert Hall, in Stockholm, Sweden, December 10, 2019.
A banner protesting against 2019 Nobel literature prize laureate Peter Handke is seen at the Stockholm Concert Hall, in Stockholm, Sweden, December 10, 2019.   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Colm Fulton
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This year's laureates for the Nobel Prizes in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Economics received their awards on Tuesday in a ceremony in Stockholm.

The event was boycotted by Albania and Kosovo, which condemned the decision to award the 2019 Literature Prize to Austrian author Peter Handke. He is criticised for being a supporter of the late former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Ahead of the ceremony taking place on Human Rights' Day, Kosovo's Foreign Affairs Minister Behgjet Pacolli said that "today is a shameful day for Europe and humankind".

"It shows that Europe has an (sic) amnesia of what happened in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia. We have to counter these revisionist attempts," Pacolli added.

His Albanian counterpart, Gent Cakaj, confirmed on Twitter on Monday that the country's ambassador to Sweden would not attend the ceremony.

"Justification of war atrocities during the Yugoslavia break-up must not be rewarded," he said, adding: "This will solely strengthen the state of denial that must be overcome and strongly condemned."

Handke was recognised for his body of work which includes novels, essays, notebooks and drama that "with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience," the Swedish Academy said in a statement at the time.

Mats Malm, the head of the Academy, has since defended the decision to award the prestigious prize to Handke, conceding that the Austrian author, 77, had made "provocative, unsuitable and unclear comments in political questions."

But he also said that "the Academy ... has not found anything in his writing that constitutes an attack on civil society or on the respect for the equality of all people."

The event will also see Polish author Olga Tokarczuk honoured after she won the 2018 Literature Prize for "a narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life."

Here's a recap of the other laureates

Medicine

The prize was awarded to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”

READ MORE: Three physician-scientists receive Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Physics

James Peebles, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz were awarded the prize for "furthering our understanding of the universe and our place in it."

READ MORE: James Peebles, Michel Mayor, Didier Queloz win Nobel Prize for Physics

Chemistry

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences gave the prize to John B. Goodenough from the University of Texas, Austin, M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University, and Akira Yoshino of Meijo University for developing lithium-ion batteries, which are used in mobile phones, laptops, and electric vehicles.

READ MORE: Three scientists win Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing lithium-ion batteries

Economics

U.S.-based economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won for work fighting poverty that has helped millions of children by favouring practical steps over theory.

French-American Duflo became only the second woman to win the economics prize in its 50-year history, as well as the youngest at 46.