President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy received the Charlemagne Award in the German city of Aachen for his contribution to the European Union. The jury’s statement emphasized that Zelensky “deserved this award together with the Ukrainian people, who protect not only the sovereignty of their country and the lives of its citizens, but also Europe and European values.”
Vladimir Zelensky arrived in North Rhine-Westphalia in the afternoon from Berlin, where he met with the President of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Those present at the award ceremony in the medieval Crown Hall of the Aachen Town Hall greeted Zelensky with a standing ovation, RFE/RL correspondent Anna Roze reports.
In his speech at the presentation of the award, Scholz spoke highly of the freedom-loving and courage of the Ukrainian people. The chancellor thanked the president and the people of Ukraine for protecting common European values. The politician quoted Zelensky’s words, which he said on February 24 last year, on the day of the start of the Russian full-scale invasion: “The president is here. We are all here.” According to Sholtz, rarely in history have short phrases had such a big impact: it was immediately clear that the Ukrainian people will not submit to Russia’s violence, but will resist it.
The Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany called the presentation of the prize to Zelenskiy and the people of Ukraine “the beginning of the further unification of Europe.” Scholz noted: “If Vladimir Putin believed that he could push the Ukrainian nation from its path to Europe by force, he – with all his tanks, drones and missile attacks – achieved nothing but the opposite effect.” According to the chancellor, the war united Ukraine and the European Union like never before. Scholz emphasized that Ukraine can continue to rely on the further support of European countries. This also applies to Ukraine’s aspiration to become a member of the European Union. “Ukraine is part of our European family,” the Chancellor emphasized.
Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Sholtz for presenting the award. According to him, during the war, Ukraine is facing an aggressor who would like to turn history back and is “capable of any meanness and cruelty.” The President of Ukraine spoke highly of Scholz’s words about the “turn of the era” (Zeitenwende) and military support for Ukraine, which he said at the end of February. The President of Ukraine repeated his demand for his country’s entry into the European Union and NATO. “The European Union will be incomplete without Ukraine,” emphasized Zelensky, who first spoke in English and then switched to Ukrainian.
The Charlemagne Award was founded on March 14, 1950. Last year, it was awarded to Svetlana Tykhanovskaya, Maria Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo. Previously, the award was presented to, among others, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis.
Both the visit to Berlin and the award ceremony took place under the strictest security measures. Due to the highest level of secrecy, neither the time nor the route of the convoy of cars and motorcade accompanying the President of Ukraine was reported in Berlin.