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Romania's Iohannis receives Charlemagne Prize

October 2, 2021

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has been presented with the 2020 Charlemagne Prize for promoting "European values." The award ceremony in Aachen had been postponed several times because of the COVID pandemic.

Klaus Iohannis receiving the Charlemagne Prize
Iohannis has been honored for his service to promoting European unityImage: Federico Gambarini/dpa/picture alliance

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Saturday received the Charlemagne Prize honoring people considered to have worked toward European unification at a ceremony in the western German city of Aachen.

The prize's board of directors commended Iohannis for making Romania, a country that once had a "brutal dictatorship," a home for European values in southeastern Europe.

The board said the prize was meant to encourage Iohannis to continue resolutely on his "European path."

Klaus Iohannis and his wife, Carmen
Iohannis was accompanied by his wife, CarmenImage: Federico Gambarini/dpa/picture alliance

A 'bridge builder'

Iohannis, 62, is "a great champion of fairness, the protection of minorities and cultural diversity, as well as an important mediator and bridge builder between western and eastern European societies," said Jürgen Linden, spokesman for the board, in comments ahead of the presentation.

In a speech at the ceremony, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, praised Iohannis' efforts toward a united Europe. He also called for the EU to strengthen its military defense capabilities.

The award ceremony in the Aachen town hall was originally meant to have taken place in May 2020 but was postponed a number of times owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vera Jourova, the vice president of the European Commission for values and transparency, was quick to offer her congratulations, commending Iohannis' "service for the common European project." 

Corruption fighter

Iohannis has said he considers himself "an ethnic German and a Romanian citizen," as he belongs to Romania's ethnic minority known as Transylvanian Saxons.

He had been mayor of the Romanian city of Sibiu for 14 years from 2000, during which he became known as a fighter of corruption.

He took office as Romanian president in December 2014 and was reelected in 2019.

During his presidency, he has continued to promote justice and combat corruption in the former communist country, while championing European unity.

The Charlemagne Prize, named after the royal founder of what became the Holy Roman Empire, has been awarded by the city of Aachen since 1950. Charlemagne (748-814) resided and is buried in Aachen. 

The 2019 recipient was UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, while French President Emmanuel Macron won the year before. Other prominent winners include Chancellor Angela Merkel (2008), Pope John Paul II (2004) and former US President Bill Clinton (2000).

tj/wmr (epd, KNA)