The European Committee of the Regions, together with the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) and the Polish city of Gdańsk, have presented the Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award to Henriette Reker, Mayor of Cologne, for her courage and work on the promotion of freedom, solidarity and equality.
The Award, presented for the first time this year, was created to continue the legacy of the late Paweł Adamowicz, who was tragically murdered in 2019. Nominations were open to any elected representatives, officials and ordinary citizens who, despite the risks, are committed to making democracy more open, effective and welcoming.
The Award jury conferred the honour on Mayor Reker for her extraordinary dedication and work in promoting tolerance, inclusiveness and non-discrimination of citizens with a migrant background, fighting hate speech and xenophobia, and supporting integration through a range of policies and projects and through the brave and clear public positions she has adopted. In her work over the past 20 years, as deputy mayor and since 2015 as Mayor of Cologne, she has promoted diversity and solidarity into an integral part of Cologne’s identity.
Mayor Henriette Reker said: “I am humbly honoured to be awarded in remembrance of Pawel Adamowicz. He was a firm believer of free press, free art and the right of everyone to voice their opinion openly in a democracy. We shared common believes and we fought for those. I am grateful to be Mayor of an open-hearted, open-minded city welcoming refugees and everyone who is looking for a hometown that loves its multicultural roots. Even though we still face some serious issues, too. Mayors all over the world are facing issues such as racism and antisemitism. One way that we can support our diverse communities is to set up international beacons such as this one, to unit and to stand strong against any right-wing tendencies. Violence never was and never will be a solution. It will always be the first step into a wrong direction. That is why we have to stand up for peace, for open dialogue and unitedness.”
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the region of Central Macedonia, said: “The Adamowicz Award is a permanent reminder that the protection and promotion of freedom, solidarity, and non-discrimination starts locally. It is here on the frontline where we must protect our Union, its principles and values. As the first laureate of this Award, Mayor Reker is celebrated for her dedication to equality, solidarity and integration and her commitment to defending our shared fundamental values”
Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency, said:
“I am very happy that this award becomes a reality. I am particularly glad that the recipient, Mrs. Reker, a Mayor of Cologne, embodies the principles of courage and excellence in the promotion of freedom, solidarity and equality. She is known widely for her commitment in promoting inclusion, equality and non-discrimination. I cannot think of a better winner of this first edition of the prize.”
Magdalena Adamowicz, Member of European Parliament and widow of Paweł Adamowicz, said: “Diversity is not a problem, it’s an asset! Withdrawing into oneself does no good. It is only by encountering another culture, by encountering difference, that we become richer” – these are Paweł’s words.Let’s look at the history of those cities, regions and countries that have achieved success. Their common feature is respect for diversity, openness and tolerance, respect for every human being, because they are the driving force behind the economy, culture, science and culinary richness. Gdańsk is undoubtedly one of these cities. If we do not want to lose democracy, we cannot give up our democratic values without a struggle. We need to fight for them and restore their true meaning. Paweł understood this, which is why he supported civic education so much. So I’m very much counting on the next editions of the Paweł Adamowicz Prize to develop civic education in our cities and regions.Once again, I congratulate you, Mayor Henriette Reker, and let us all remember and demonstrate through our daily work that without cooperation there is no social or economic development, there is no prosperity and there is no cooperation without trust and respect for each other. For every human being. This is how Paweł lived, and such attitudes help promote his prize.”
The Mayor of Gdańsk and representative of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), Aleksandra Dulkiewicz , said: “I believe that Paweł Adamowicz would very much like us to translate the emotions that his death caused into consistent, everyday action. Action that does good for your neighbour. Small deeds: a gesture, a smile, and a good word, which, if repeated a thousand times, will make a difference on the good side. I think it will be the best, greatest monument that we will be able to erect to Mayor Paweł Adamowicz. Henriette Reker, the Mayor of Cologne, laureate of the first edition of the Paweł Adamowicz Award, with her consistency in doing good for the residents of Cologne, with her courage in opposing intolerance, hatred, and xenophobia, is just such a person who identifies the values for which the president of Gdańsk gave his life.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, in a speech at the European Committee of the Regions in December, applauded the creation of the award for defending the values on which the European Union was founded. President Macron underlined that respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, as well as respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, are essential and that they form an inseparable whole. These were values for which Paweł Adamowicz lived and unfortunately died, President Macron said.
- In 2015, Mayor Reker survived a knife attack motivated by her commitment to helping migrant communities and their integration. This act of violence has not dissuaded her from continuing to uphold the same values in her public life and in the policies and projects that has championed.
- Cologne is home to 1,089,984 people, of whom 426,646 people have a migrant background, including 212,191 foreign nationals from 184 nations. The city of Cologne hosts around 6,000 refugees. There are 130 different religious communities in Cologne, 26 of which are represented in the Council of Religions, a voluntary association that works to promote inter-religious dialogue.
- Paweł Adamowicz was stabbed on 13 January 2019 while speaking at a charity event. He died from his injuries the following day. He was 53 years old. His murder was preceded by a rise in hate speech directed at him. His death prompted a debate about the contribution of the degeneration of public discourse to violence, extremism, propaganda and intolerance. His last words, uttered just before he was attacked, were: “Gdańsk is generous, Gdańsk shares its good, Gdańsk wants to be a city of solidarity. This is a wonderful time to share the good. You are loved. Gdańsk is the most wonderful city in the world. Thank you!”
- Mr Adamowicz was committed to promoting the EU’s fundamental values, and was an active member of the European Committee of the Regions. In 2016, Mayor Adamowicz launched the Gdańsk ‘Immigrant Integration Model’ after meeting Pope Francis. It has served as a model that has inspired other Polish cities.
- The European Committee of the Regions, as the political assembly of local and regional politicians in the EU and on the initiative of the Polish delegation, unanimously adopted a resolution on 7 February 2019 condemning hate speech and threats of all kinds against political leaders.
- The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is an international organisation of 75 cities and regions in Europe and beyond, offering safe haven to persecuted writers and artists, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values and promoting international solidarity. More than 250 writers and artists have been offered residency in an ICORN city. In a safe environment, they continue to play a vital role, both in highlighting violations of human rights and free speech in their home countries, and in supporting colleagues in their country of origin. Mayor Pawel Adamowicz brought the City of Gdańsk into ICORN on 30 August 2017.
Source: Mayor of Cologne receives Award for excellence and courage in promoting freedom, solidarity and equality (europa.eu)
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