An international award, set up in 2001 by the Mitteleuropa Cultural Association, in recognition of those special people who over the course of their lives have distinguished themselves for their outstanding qualities and activity in support of renewed brother-and sisterhood among the many small Peoples making up the magnificent European mosaic called “Mitteleurope”. The “Laudis et Honoris Signum” award consists in a precious decoration wrought in silver and gold, accompanied by a Latin-inscribed parchment. It is intended as a high honour, with international recognition. The Association confers the award to illustrious figures who have achieved excellence and special merit in their specific fields of expertise (Art, Economy, Music, Politics, Diplomacy, Literature and Poetry, Humanitarian deeds, etc…). Awardees are people who have contributed to the supranational Mitteleuropean ideal, promoting solid co-operation and cohesion among European peoples, according to our Statute’s inspiring principles. In this sense we firmly believe that the spirit of brother- and sisterhood and our common cultural matrix, which has taken shape through centuries of civil coexistence, can represent a modern example and a tested model for a European union in which each of us can identify and feel part of.
The first award ceremony was attended by eminent personages – just as highly eminent were the first five awardees: H.E. Jozef Mikloško, Ambassador to Italy for the Slovakian Republic, formerly Vice-Prime Minister of the Czechoslovak Republic; H.E. Günther Birbaum, ambassador of Austria in Budapest, formerly ambassador to Italy for the Austrian Republic and Consul General in Trieste; H.E. Dénes Gyapay, formerly Consul General of Hungary in Milan; H.E. Tomaz Pavšič, formerly Consul General of Slovenia in Trieste; H.E. Consul Sepp Prugger, formerly the Carinthian Government’s liaison to our Association.
As this list of illustrious names implies, it was our wish and intention to introduce the award with a gesture demonstrating our desire to reward Diplomacy—a humble job at times, which frequently goes unrecognised. Yet, over the last twenty years, Diplomacy has played a strategic and crucial role by weaving together and reviving constructive relationships both among Central-European countries and between Central-European and Western European countries.
In 2002 the awardees were:
Father Imre Kozma, the man who took away the first brick of the Berlin wall, as the Foreign Minister of Germany said when handing father Kozma the highest German award. It was in fact father Kozma who gave shelter and food to more than 50.000 refugees from Eastern Germany escaping to the free Western Germany through the opening in the “iron curtain” between Hungary and Austria.
Prof. Leonhard Paulmichl, journalist, essayist and director of the Austrian radio-TV company, born in Südtirol. He is the founder of the Pen Club Rezia.
His cultural message in favour of the Ladin people and in favour of all ethnic minorities in general gained him wide international approval as well as various awards; in particular, he received an award in Madrid for a TV full-length film on the ethnic minorities in the Alpine region, going from Coira to Friuli. And Friuli begins just where our patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia is situated.
Prof. Enzo Bettiza, of Dalmatian origin, one of the most competent and representative journalists, writers and politicians of the cultural background of our people, as well as a witness and faithful interpreter of their suffering.Together with Indro Montanelli he founded the paper “Il Giornale”; he was also reporter of “Corriere della Sera”, Senator and deputy in the European Parliament. To each of these experiences he contributed with the character and the “warranty” of a Central-European intellectual. He was born in Split, from a family in which the father was Italian, the mother Croatian and the nanny an Orthodox Serbian!
In 2004, on the “Memorial Day” of the fall of the iron curtain, this important “Mitteleuropean” award was given to both the protagonists of one of the most beautiful pages of the 20th century European history: Alois Mock and Gyula Horn. These two outstanding men – foreign ministers of Austria and Hungary in 1989 – had cut the barbed wire with a shear, an act which changed the geography, history and politcs of Europe.
In October 2004, during an important conference celebrating the 30th anniversary of foundation of the Mitteleuropa Association, the award was handed over to His Eminence the CardinalTomáš Špidlík, at the presence of numerous authorities and official representatives of all the Christian churches of Europe.He is a personality with an incomparable ability to keep an open dialogue between the separated Christian churches; he is a Gesuit of high spirituality and charisma; he was friend and confessor of His Holiness the Pope John Paul II; he is Czech, or rather Moravian by birth, but universal in the values he can spread. The confort of his words have been and will always be a great help for us all.