The Hessian Peace Prize for 2020 has been awarded jointly to the former Prime Minister of Greece, main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras, and the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, it was announced on Monday.
The decision was announced by Boris Rhein, President of the Landtag of the German state of Hesse. Zaev and Tsipras were given the award for settling the long-running, bitter dispute between the two nations and agreeing on the name of the “Republic of North Macedonia” (Republika Severna Makedonija) for Greece’s northern neighbor going forward.
Former recipients of the prize, which is awarded to individuals who have rendered outstanding service to furthering peace and mutual understanding among nations, include Swiss lawyer and diplomat Carla del Ponte for her commitment to the enforcement of international criminal law and her conviction that only law can establish sustainable peace.
Other awardees include Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, for her mediation of the nuclear deal between Iran and the US; and Ella Mikhaylovna Polyakova, for her campaign against degrading conditions, violence and abuses in the Russian Army.
“With the Hessian Peace Prize, we are honouring two people who have worked for peace and international understanding and who succeeded in resolving a conflict that goes back deep into history,” said Rhein as he announced the 2020 winners of the award.
“The two of them, as head of the Greek government at the time and as Prime Minister of (the formerly named FYROM) reached an agreement in the decades-long conflict between their countries.
“In doing so, they achieved a truly diplomatic feat that no one had managed before. Without it, the name dispute that has been going on since (North) Macedonia’s independence in 1991 would have continued to smolder and the feud between the two neighboring countries would have continued to destabilize the entire Balkan region,” he pointed out.
“The nearly thirty-year-old name dispute between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece was settled peacefully with an agreement on February 12, 2019. A compromise had been found; in the future, the name of the new state created in 1991 will be the “Republic of North Macedonia,” Rhein stated.
“For the first time, a period of good neighborly relations began and the way was paved for North Macedonia to become an ally in NATO and a partner in the European Union. And this success has an impact far beyond the region,” he noted.
“The peace agreement sends a signal to the world. There is not only the law of the strongest. In today’s world, there is still the path of respect and compromise, the path of peace and stability. And by doing so, the laureates have done nothing less than continuing the European path in a great way, without having to give up national identities,” the President of the Landtag added.
“Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras have departed from the pattern of insisting on maximum positions and ruling out agreement as defeat or treason. In doing so, they put their political careers at risk and had to negotiate numerous compromises as well as concessions within their parliaments,” Rhein noted.
At the announcement, Hessian Peace Prize Board of Trustees member Professor Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff remarked “The agreement is accompanied by the hope of good cooperation and partnership between North Macedonia and Greece. The settlement of the dispute is an example of reconciliation in the region and Europe as a whole.”
Rhein also praised the courage shown by the two leaders in the face of many difficulties and, addressing Tsipras, said that few heads of government would have managed to stay the course when their ruling coalition was at stake. Their optimism and persistence, he concluded, had achieved what hundreds of diplomats had for decades failed to bring about.
The Hessian Peace prize is awarded each year to personalities of international standing and who have made an indisputable contribution to solving differences that go back many years, and for the defense of international law and the rights of peoples.
In the past it has also been awarded to figures of international renown, such as the Dalai Lama, as well as other heads of state, diplomats and politicians who have contributed to the peaceful resolution of long-lasting conflicts.
Each year, an awardee selected by the Hessian Peace Prize committee receives an award totaling 25,000 Euros.