New Austrian Award for Champions of Regional Cooperation

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: April 23, 2023; 23:15 ♦ (Vindobona)

In recognition of Erhard Busek's tireless commitment to bringing the countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe closer to the European Union, the Austrian Foreign Ministry, together with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the successor organization to the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe headed by Erhard Busek from 2002 to 2008, is offering the Champion of Regional Integration Erhard Busek Award.

Austria's Foreign Ministry, together with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), awards a prize in memory of Erhard Busek for the first time. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Gugerell / CC0

Throughout his life, Erhard Busek has been committed to the European idea and has meritoriously worked until the end to bring the Western Balkan states closer to the EU. Therefore, the Champion of Regional Cooperation Award of the RCC, which has been issued since 2013, honors Erhard Busek's long-standing commitment this year. The goal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the RCC is to recognize outstanding individuals and true champions of regional cooperation who - guided by European values and principles - carry Erhard Busek's ideal legacy into the future.

The award is aimed at individuals and organizations from the region who have made a transnational contribution to regional cooperation and development, EU integration of the region, or local socio-economic participation. Their activities should at the same time reflect the fundamental values of human rights, fairness, transparency, and equal treatment. The award is particularly intended to appeal to individuals or organizations working with or representing minorities, women, youth, or vulnerable groups. Governmental organizations, international organizations, and individuals or organizations that are part of or funded by political parties and political groups are excluded from nomination.

For many years, Austria has been considered a pacesetter for the enlargement perspective of the Western Balkan countries. Austria considers regional cooperation to play a key role in bringing the Western Balkan states closer to the EU and can look back on many years of involvement in this regard in various formats, such as the Berlin Process and as a supporter of the RCC. This year's 20th anniversary of the Thessaloniki Declaration should also be a wake-up call to the EU community of states to renew support for the region and to dynamize the enlargement process.

An evaluation committee, consisting of one representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the RCC, will review all applications for completeness and conduct a pre-selection. A list of criteria, prerequisites, and further information on the award has been published on the website of the Austrian Foreign Ministry. Subsequently, a jury of experts will evaluate the pre-selected applications and select a winner.

The award ceremony is planned to take place during the annual meeting of the RCC in Sarajevo in June 2023. The prize is endowed with 5,000 euros. The deadline for nominations is May 17, 2023.