Four Italian recipients were honoured with the 2016 European Citizen’s Prize, awarded by the European Parliament each year to recognise exceptional achievements by European citizens. Fifty prizes are awarded annually to individuals or groups across the 28 member states.
The ceremony was opened by Cristina Giachi, Deputy Mayor of Florence, who noted that ‘history is made by the people who take action.’ She called the Citizen’s Prize a reminder of ‘what it means to be a European citizen, of what we mean by a ‘civil’ Europe, a better Europe’.
Dieter Schlenker, Director of the Historical Archives of the European Union, Gian Paolo Meneghini, Head of the European Parliament’s Information Office in Rome, Eugenio Giani, President of the Regional Council of Tuscany, and Anna Ravoni, Mayor of Fiesole, also welcomed the prize winners and guests.
Italian European Parliament Members Elena Gentile and Cécile Kyenge made their remarks and read the motivations for this year’s award winners. Both emphasized the element of solidarity present in the work of all the award winners.
‘Let’s get back to Europe, the cradle of peace, to Europe, the cradle of solidarity, the Europe which defends the weakest and most fragile. We need a Europe which stands behind our efforts to increase solidarity’, stated Ms Gentile.
Ms Kyenge echoed this challenge, declaring that ‘Solidarity is at the heart of our politics. We are trying to work on these issues, and we can ask Europe to do more. The people we honour here today should stimulate us, they should be our example for how we treat those who come to Europe in search of solidarity.’
The ‘Archè’ Foundation was honoured for its efforts on behalf of families in difficulty, especially mothers and children suffering serious social hardship or illness.
The charitable organization ‘Giorgio La Pira’ was recognized for its contributions to the growth of young people in line with human and Christian principles and its activities facilitating international dialogue among youth, especially inter-religious dialogue.
The Voluntary Association ‘Pegaso’ was recognized for its efforts assisting disabled adults who have lost their parent caretakers, providing them with a home and a network of support that allows them to live independently.
Ms. Nawal Soufi received the award for her efforts in aiding the rescue of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, demonstrating the fundamental European values of solidarity and refuge.
Renaud Dehousse, President of the European University Institute, offered concluding remarks, noting that as an institution, the EUI is involved, in many ways, in contributing to the goal of developing a European society. ‘Hosting this prize,’ he said, ‘gives us a chance to reflect on our own European citizenship, our ties with Italy–one of the founding member states of the Institute–and with the territory.’
The European Citizen’s Prizes are awarded each year to individuals or groups for their outstanding contributions to either facilitating cross-border cooperation within the EU or promoting better mutual understanding and closer integration between citizens and member states. The Prize is also awarded for day-to-day activities reflecting the values enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.