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Speech by Mr Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, on the occasion of the presentation of the European Diplomas – 30 September 2021

Dear Mayors,

Dear Members,

Dear Ambassadors,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I am very pleased and honored to address you at this virtual ceremony organised by the Council of Europe.

The Parliamentary Assembly is often referred to as the political engine and driving force of the Council of Europe. It provides a democratic forum to debate issues of interest and concern to our member States, it monitors elections and its committees play an important role in examining current issues and putting forward recommendations to tackle address them.

In 1955, this Assembly created the Europe Prize, the first European Prize and the only distinction for European Municipalities.

This Prize was created in a post-war context and, in the 66 years since its creation, has allowed thousands of cities to exchange, meet and share on subjects of common interest. We are always proud to see, that new cities apply for the now well established and prestigious Europe Prize.

I am therefore particularly happy and honored by your virtual presence for this European Diploma presentation ceremony and I warmly congratulate the 18 prize-winning cities which receive it today.

12 cities were awarded this European Diploma in 2020 and 6 cities in 2021.

As you know, this Diploma is a first step towards the Europe Prize which is the highest European distinction for a city. I would have liked to welcome you here in Strasbourg, at the Palais de l'Europe, as we traditionally do every year for the winning cities of the European Diploma. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our way of doing business and we need to adapt and adjust to ensure the safety of all of us.

Nonetheless our enthusiasm remains unchanged, and I am happy to see that the mayors of the winning cities have responded positively to the invitation to this ceremony.

I would like to encourage you all to be proud of what you have accomplished, and at the same time, to remember that this Diploma is only the beginning of a great European adventure.

I would like to salute your commitment and your will, which have enabled you to receive this Diploma today. It proves that you have all the keys in hand to continue your European activities and to obtain, sometime in the near future, the second distinction of the Europe Prize: the European Flag.

The pandemic situation has required cities to show imagination in maintaining contact with their twin cities and continuing to educate their citizens about European values. And you have been resilient, creative and determined to deliver.

This year, the city of Khmelnytskyi in Ukraine was awarded the Europe Prize. The delegation of this city was present in Strasbourg in 2015 to receive the European Diploma. As you can see, the city progressed very quickly through the levels of distinction, obtaining the Europe Prize this year. During the pandemic, it created an online platform of twin cities which allows citizens to find useful information about the twinned cities and make contact to ensure they continue to benefit from each other’s experience and traditions and maintain the mutually enriching experience of twinned cities.

I therefore encourage you to do the same, to be imaginative and to use your creative forces to pursue your European activities, especially for young people but not only.

I hope that the next ceremony will come back to Strasbourg and allow us to meet, exchange and debate in person.

Thank you and all the best for the future!