Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová was awarded the European Prize for Political Culture in recognition of her commitment to democratic values.
“Every European democrat should salute Zuzana Čaputová’s determination and courage, as well as the determination and wisdom of the Slovakian citizens in electing her”, commented Frank A. Meyer, chairman of the Hans Ringier Foundation which gives out the award every year, along with a €50,000 cash prize.
In its press release, the Hans Ringier Foundation labeled Čaputová as “the new face of hope for Eastern European EU countries – as once Vaclav Havel, the anti-communist freedom fighter and first president of the Czech Republic”.
The award was presented to the Slovak President during the traditional “dîner républicain” in Ascona, Switzerland, on Saturday. In her speech, vice-president of the European Parliament Katarina Barley lauded her achievements, saying that Zuzana Čaputová “epitomises the key issues currently at the centre of attention in Europe”.
Reacting to the nomination, Čaputová, a former lawyer and activist who rose to become the first female president in the history of Slovakia, said: “The stakes are high and the enormous responsibility is bigger than our candidacies and posts: it influences whether people will even believe in democracy and political representatives”.
Recalling the brutal murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee last year, an episode that convinced her to enter politics and fight against corruption at the highest level, she noted that “there is also a call for change in other European countries, but the peace and decency of tens of thousands of people is not a matter of course. People in Slovakia showed maturity”.
Quoted by the TASR news agency, the Slovak President also argued that, while Central and Eastern Europe’s uniqueness should be valued, all EU member states should equally adhere to common human rights and democratic values: “It’s necessary to perceive the historical context of Eastern European countries and simultaneously not ease up on the required EU values […] Compliance with these values must be expected from everyone equally, irrespective of their geographical location or duration of EU membership”, she claimed.
On Twitter, Zuzana Caputova also said she was honoured to receive the European Prize for Political Culture “on behalf of all who believe in decency and democratic principles to replace hatred, populism and extremism and renew trust, understanding and solidarity”.
Every year, the Hans Ringier Foundation awards the European Prize for Political Culture to acknowledge outstanding European politicians and public figures in their fight to defend, promote and strengthen European democratic values.
Previous winners of the coveted prize include outgoing EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Council and former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, German President Frank Walter Steinmeier, European Central Bank governors Mario Draghi and Jean-Claude Trichet, German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, former EU Commissioner and president of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Pascal Lamy and European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.
Earlier this year, Zuzana Caputova had already been named as the European Personality of the Year, beating the likes of Greta Thunberg or Lilian Thurman for her impact “on shaping the future of Europe”.