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British historian Timothy Garton Ash to receive Charlemagne Prize

Amid rising populism and the Brexit, Garton Ash will be honored for championing European liberal democracy and open culture. The award, given out by the German city of Aachen, commends those who promote European unity.

British historian and journalist Timothy Garton Ash will receive the prestigious International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen for 2017 for his contributions to the debate surrounding European values and populism, it was announced Sunday.

The foundation which chooses the winner praised Garton Ash for his "outstanding scientific and journalistic work" that "defies the populists and the simplifiers of our time and develops ideas of how we should behave in the globalized world." The prize has been handed out every year since 1950 in the western German city of Aachen and honors those who promote European unity.

Last year, Pope Francis received the prize for providing a "voice of conscience" in urging Europe to put people and values at the center of its politics.

Garton Ash was also singled out for his part in this past year's Brexit debate and his determination to foster "a tight bond between the United Kingdom and the European Union."

A vocal opponent of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the EU, Garton Ash was described by the prize committee as "a convincing and significant English European and European Englishman, who sees the United Kingdom as part of the EU's community of values and offers invaluable contributions to Europe's self-understanding," adding that he plays a key role in preserving European values, such as freedom, peace and democracy.

Jürgen Linden, a spokesperson for the prize committee, also stressed that the most pressing question of the past year had been how the future of Europe and its society will look. Because no politician was able to adequately answer that question in 2016, it was only right that no politician receive the prize, he said.

Promoting Europe

Garton Ash was born in London on July 22, 1955, and studied history at Oxford University, focusing his research on the German resistance against Hitler. He began his academic career at Free University of Berlin in the late 1970s.

His 1993 book, "In Europe's Name: Germany and the Divided Continent," brought him international recognition. He has since been a vocal commentator on the role of Europe and the continent's current challenges of combining freedom and diversity.

He currently teaches at the University of Oxford and is a senior fellow at Stanford University in the United States.

Timothy Garton Ash will formally receive the prize at a ceremony on May 25 in the Aachen town hall.

dm/se (dpa, KNA)