European leaders gather in Aachen for award to Merkel
European leaders gathered Thursday in the German city of Aachen for the award of the prestigious European leadership Charlemagne Prize to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was scheduled to give the eulogy in Aachen's historic town hall for Merkel, who was honoured for mediating a solution to the political crisis in the European Union that led to its reform, reported dpa.
Addressing 800 students Wednesday evening in Aachen on the EU's future, Merkel said: "We have to develop a joint foreign policy."
She said the EU has passed its self-absorbed phase and could get down to business, tackling issues such as climate change where the 27 EU nations needed to speak with one voice.
At a church service that began the noonday festivities, the Catholic bishop of Aachen, Heinrich Mussinghoff, reached out to European Muslims by criticizing the reform treaty's silence about religion.
He said the fundamental document should have expressly mentioned both the Judaeo-Christian heritage of Europe and the role of Islam.
Among those on the guest list Thursday were Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and King Juan Carlos of Spain.
The European leadership prize, awarded since 1950, a German city near the Belgian and French border, is named after the Emperor Charlemagne (768-814) who united a vast region of Europe from France to northern Germany.
The prize comprises a cash award of 5,000 euros and a medal. Previous winners include former US president Bill Clinton (2000). Last year the award went to EU foreign policy supremo Javier Solana.