Since their creation and with an increasing intensity since the 1980s, European institutions have used prizes, labels and other distinctions as political resources to perform and legitimize their action. The purpose of this article is to make sense of this governance by prizes. It documents the occurrences, uses and meanings of European prizes and what it reveals of EU politics and policies. It shows how the EU mobilizes and updates the three usual functions of prizes as claim of centrality and authority by the prize-giver, creation of incentives and compliance for recipients and construction/solutions of/to social problems. The conclusion is that the European governance by prizes mirrors what happens at other levels of governance while adapting it to its politico-institutional singularity. The EU operates with its own logic of symbolic production but remains secondary to member states in the definition of hierarchies of honours and values.