Ukrainian President Zelensky has received the Charlemagne Prize in the German city of Aachen. The prize is awarded each year to a person or organization that is committed to European unification.
This year, Zelensky and the Ukrainian people received the prize, as “a tribute to their courageous struggle for freedom, self-determination, democracy and the defense of our European values”. It is the first time that both a president and his people have won the award.
The organization behind the Charlemagne Prize called the prize an encouragement to start accession negotiations with the European Union quickly. Ukraine is not yet a member of the European Union, but would like to join the European partnership. A few days after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine officially applied for EU membership. In June, Ukraine was granted candidate country status.
Ukraine will not be able to join the EU for the time being. There should be no conflict over the territory of an acceding country. Nevertheless, the various heads of government who addressed Zelensky emphasized the connection with Ukraine and the country’s future in the EU. They also thanked the president for Ukraine’s daily struggle.
Zelensky is awarded the matching medal:
Zelensky also stressed the importance of cooperation and thanked the European Union extensively for its support over the past year. He thanked “strong Germany”, but also said that Ukrainians will always make Europe stronger. “The European Union is not complete without Ukraine.” There was a warning in his words. War is not far away, Zelensky said: “The fighting continues. Not far from here. That too is European destiny.”
Security and protesters
Zelensky met with President Steinmeier and Chancellor Scholz earlier today in Berlin. Together with Scholz, Zelensky then flew to Aachen.
Security in the city has been increased due to the arrival of the Ukrainian president. Heavily armed officers roam the streets. Before the ceremony, snipers could be seen on rooftops surrounding City Hall, where the award was presented.
In addition to 700 guests, hundreds of people tried to get a seat on the square in front of the town hall, where the ceremony could be followed on screens. Some queued for hours to get through the strict controls.
Outside the city center, several groups of demonstrators gathered in Aachen. Some of them wanted to show support for Ukraine, while others wanted to express a dissenting voice. About a hundred people demonstrated for peace and demanded Germany’s departure. In another place, more than a thousand people gathered to show their solidarity with Ukraine and Zelensky.
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