The Athens Democracy Prize for 2023 was awarded today to the former President of the European Commission and former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, by the Mayor of Athens, Costas Bakoyannis, during a special ceremony in Brussels attended by the Minister of Shipping and Island Policy Christos Stylianidis who was a European Commissioner and a member of Mr. Junker’s team.

Kostas Bakoyannis, addressing Mr. Junker, emphasized: “Times are difficult for the European continent, under the shadow of war, with the dark forces of extremism, hatred and discord gaining voice. In this very context, your example is a source of strength and inspiration. The only living European who can be considered identical with Europe. Throughout your career you have remained committed to its ideals and values. A man of logic and dialogue, of ambitious pursuits but also a realist. Able to gain consensus without discounting your beliefs, with courage and honesty. You faced with vigor the crises that coincided with your tenure in the Eurogroup and the European Commission, remaining steadfastly true to your vision of a single and unified Europe, with your response to the economic crisis, and Greece at its center, always taking into account the big picture through a long-term perspective. With this Award, the Municipality of Athens honors you for your entire work, for a lifetime of fighting for Europe and democracy, which highlighted the best elements of our political nature, while your example offers us hope for the future».

For his part, Mr. Juncker, receiving the Athens Democracy Award, pointed out: “Thank you very much for the award, it is a great honor. Athens and Greece have never left my mind and heart as I fell in love with Athens from my first visit. I did not know then that Greece and Athens would accompany me throughout my political life, in good times and in bad times. Receiving an award from the City of Athens, the cradle of not only Greek, but also European democracy, means a lot to me. Because Athens is not a new place for me, neither is Greece. I am very happy to receive this award and to be given the opportunity to remember the principles of European democracy, such as ensuring free and fair elections. Do we have free and fair elections everywhere in the world? No we do not have. Principles such as respect for the rule of law. Does everyone in the EU respect the rule of law? No. There is much work to be done if we are to promote democratic principles».


The contribution of Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker is a Luxembourg politician who served as the 21st Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013 and 12th President of the European Commission from 2014 to 2019. He was also Minister of Finance from 1989 to 2009 and President of the Eurogroup from 2005 to 2013.

Until the day Juncker left the prime ministership in 2013, he was the longest-serving head of any national government in the EU. and one of the world’s longest-serving democratically elected leaders, with his tenure spanning the height of European finances and the sovereign debt crisis. In 2005 he became the first permanent President of the Eurogroup. From 2005 to 2013 Juncker headed the Eurogroup — the body made up of finance ministers from all the countries of the Eurozone. In this role he helped shape the response to the sovereign debt crisis that has plagued economies within the eurozone since 2009.

In March 2014, Jean-Claude Juncker was elected by the European Parliament as President of the European Commissiona position in which he remained until October 2019.

Mr. Juncker served the idea, the democratic principles and the future of the United Europe as little as possible. He also stood as a steadfast friend and ally of Greece at a critical historical turning point

“Until the end of my life, I will be proud because I served Europe,” he said visibly moved as he left, after decades of presence on the European political scene and his emblematic Presidency.

His departure from the leadership of the Commission was accompanied by the honorable comment from the international press about “end of an era».


Democracy Award of the City of Athens

The City of Athens Democracy Prize is awarded annually to an individual or organization whose life’s work, achievements and moral integrity demonstrate a sustained and active commitment to the promotion of liberal democracy and its recipient Award winner has been recognized worldwide for his/her efforts. Liberal democracy means a system of moral values ​​that celebrates the virtues of citizenship, human rights and the rule of law.

Who have received the Award to date?

To date, the City of Athens Democracy Award has been awarded to:

  • Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch (2016) for his exemplary and enduring advocacy of human rights and his organization internationally.
  • Felipe Gonzalez, former Prime Minister of Spain (2017), for his fundamental contribution to the consolidation of democracy in post-dictatorship Spain.
  • Joachim Chissano, Former President of Mozambique (2018) for scrupulous adherence to and respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions in a continent where they are often violated or ignored.
  • Posthumous (2019), to Pawel Adamowitz, former mayor of Gdansk, Poland who was murdered by far-right extremists, for his steadfast and inspiring defense of the principles of liberal democracy.
  • Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Former President of Brazil (2020) for his compelling and exemplary commitment to the rule of law, respect for democratic principles and the defense of human rights in Brazil and beyond.
  • Wai Wai Nu, Burmese activist (2021) for her steadfast and unwavering advocacy for the rights and equality of Myanmar citizens.
  • To the people of Ukraine and the President of the country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy (2022) for their unceasing struggle to defend their country’s sovereignty and its right to self-determination.
  • The Advisory Committee to the Mayor for the Democracy Award of the Municipality of Athens is chaired by the Academic and European Mediator 2003-2013, Professor Emeritus of EKPA, Nikiforos Diamantouros.

The Award ceremony is part of it Athens Democracy Forum, which was hosted in Athens for the 11th year this year, from September 26 to 29. Organized by the Democracy and Culture Foundation and in collaboration with the Municipality of Athens.