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Europe

Vaclav Havel awarded Bonn International Democracy Prize

The 72-year-old former Czech president was chosen as recipient for the inaugural award in recognition of his work promoting democracy in former communist Europe.

Vaclav Havel gives remarks as he accepts his prize in Bonn

The former Czech president used the power of the pen to promote democracy

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier presented the award to the 72-year-old at a ceremony attended by 200 guests at the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn. It is the first time that the prize, which includes a cash award of 10,000 euros, has been awarded.

"Vaclav Havel is a big name in the European democracy movement," said Steinmeier. "The peaceful developments in Central and Eastern Europe would be unimaginable without his work," Steinmeier said.

"The award is in recognition of Vaclav Havel’s courageous efforts to promote democracy, freedom and peace in his country, as well boosting relations between his country and Germany and Europe," said Deutsche Welle's Director General Erik Bettermann, chairman of the Association of the International Democracy Prize Bonn.

Freedom fighter

"The Czech author and playwright, the peaceful fighter for freedom and politician, has lived history and created history," said Bettermann as he explained why the jury decided to award the prize to the former Czech president. "He fought for freedom, for democracy and human rights and as a result, spent years in prison."

"I am the first president after the fall of the Iron Curtain who was not thrown out of his country," said Havel in his acceptance speech.

It was the 1989 Velvet Revolution launched Havel into the presidency. He was president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992. From 1993 to 2003, he was president of the Czech Republic, after its amicable divorce from Slovakia.

Today, Havel has returned to writing.

The Bonn International Democracy Prize is to be awarded at least every two years. The prize board wants to highlight the key role Bonn played as the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and as the official seat of government for a united Germany until 1999.

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