Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has been awarded the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen for her contribution to European integration. She dedicated the prize to the people of Lithuania.
At the award ceremony in Aachen's historic city hall on Thursday, 55th winner of the Charlemagne Prize Dalia Grybauskaite said, "I want to dedicate this award to the people of Lithuania."
After Lithuania's accession to the EU in May 2004, Grybauskaite became an EU budget commissioner. From Brussels she saw how her country's economy was descending so she returned home, was elected president in 2009, and led her country with rigorous austerity without asking for a rescue bailout amid the debt crisis.
In her speech at the award ceremony 57-year-old Grybauskaite called for "fiscal responsibility" within the EU, and called on Europeans to overcome fear of the future.
Numerous politicians and public figures attended the ceremony, including the 2012 prize winner, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble as well as EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
Giving a speech at the ceremony, EU Parliament President Martin Schulz called the Lithuanian president, "an extraordinary European woman and an outstanding politician." Grybauskaite is distinguished by her "energy, efficiency and reliability,” he said.
Schulz went on to say that he was deeply impressed by the dignity and determination of the Lithuanian people in light of the country's recent economic hardships – a dramatic economic downturn in the last five years, reduction public spending by 20 percent, and pension cuts by 10 percent.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Berlin praised Grybauskaite as "a committed European." He also said she stands "like no other for the consistent orientation of Lithuania to Europe."
The Charlemagne Prize has been awarded since 1950 to individuals and institutions who have rendered outstanding services to European unity. The ceremony traditionally takes place on Ascension Day, a public holiday in Germany. Previous winners include Spain's King Juan Carlos, former US President Bill Clinton, the Euro currency and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
hc/kms (AFP, dpa)