Angela Merkel receives peace prize for her refugee policy

Angela Merkel receives peace prize for her refugee policy
Опубликовано: Wednesday, 08 February 2023 20:35

The former German chancellor was awarded the prize in Ivory Coast for her efforts to welcome refugees in 2015.

BERLIN — Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has received a United Nations award for her 2015 decision to welcome refugees into the country.

Merkel, who left office last year, was awarded the Félix Houphouët-Boigny UNESCO Peace Prize in Ivory Coast’s capital Yamoussoukro on Wednesday.

“All the members of the jury were touched by her courageous decision in 2015 to welcome more than 1.2 million refugees, notably from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Eritrea. This is the legacy she leaves,” the jury wrote in August last year when the decision was first announced.

“Working resolutely and hard for peace is even more important than it has ever been,” Angela Merkel said in her acceptance speech. “Dialogue is the weapon of the strong and not the weak,” she added, quoting Houphouët-Boigny, Ivory Coast’s first president after its independence from France in 1960.

Merkel thanked the jury for making their choice, which “focuses on the fact that war … also means that people have to leave their home countries,” referring to refugees from Ukraine.

“We had thought that the time of war in Europe had passed,” Merkel said. “But since the 24th of February of last year, which is when Russia’s vicious aggression on Ukraine took place, we have come to the sad conclusion that that’s not the case. This has shaken Europe to its roots.”

In 2015, Germany implemented an “open-door” refugee policy and Merkel said many people throughout the country supported it, showing that Germany could offer a warm welcome.

“I express my sincerest thanks to all of those [people] because I consider them to be winners of this prize as well,” she said.

At the ceremony, tributes were paid to Merkel and her refugee policy.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director general, praised the “courageous decision” to accept more than a million refugees. “You took risks … you put the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into action,” Azoulay said.

Jury president and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Denis Mukwege said “we commend your humanity, your spirit of solidarity and your keen sense of ethics and your inspiring leadership.”

Before the certificate was handed over, a short video reconstructed the steps leading to Merkel’s decision, culminating in her famous quote “Wir schaffen das” (“We will get it done”) and referring to the former chancellor as “Mama Merkel.”

The prize has been awarded each year since 1991 to individuals or organizations that have made significant efforts to promote, research or secure peace. The first winners were Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk.

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