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Culture

Italian President Given Charlemagne Prize

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, a fervent champion of the European constitution, received the Charlemagne Prize in Aachen on Thursday. The honor is awarded in recognition of services to European peace and unity.

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Ciampi (left) is described as a tireless torchbearer for Europe

Ciampi, 84, is described as "an indefatigable spiritual guide" of Europe and a great head of state in the citation by the jury awarding the prestigious prize, worth a symbolic 5,000 euros.

The Italian president, a pioneer of the euro, "brings optimism" to European construction and "tirelessly carries the torch for Europe," his German counterpart said in a speech at the presentation ceremony.

Ciampi served as both prime minister and finance minister of Italy before becoming president. His seven-year presidential mandate expires next year. He's the fourth Italian to have won the prize.

The prize is named for the eighth-century emperor Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, who ruled over an empire covering much of western Europe.

It was created after World War II by the German city of Aachen, which served as Charlmagne's capital.

Past recipients of the prize include Winston Churchill, former US president Bill Clinton, Vaclav Havel, the euro -- represented by the European Central Bank -- and former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who oversaw the drafting of the new European constitution treaty.

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