Merkel receives from Sarkozy Charlemagne Prize in Aachen

Other News Materials 1 May 2008 16:29 (UTC +04:00)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday as she received the prestigious Charlemagne Prize for European leadership, saying she had taught him patience, reported dpa.

Addressing her as "dear Angela" in a speech of eulogy, Sarkozy said, "She has taught me that hope requires time (to work)."

Mutual compliments continued when Merkel replied in French, thanking Sarkozy "from her heart" and praising his "adeptness and honesty" in winning office as president a year ago and "leading France back into the heart of the European Union."

The annual award, in the historic town hall of the western German city of Aachen, honoured Merkel for mediating a solution to the political crisis in the EU last year that led to EU reform.

At a church service that began the noon-day 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 in Aachen, 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.