Empress Theophano Award for Erasmus Program Presented at Event in Thessaloniki

THESSALONIKI — The European Union has an opportunity to recover from the crisis and build a better future for the following generations, European Commission President Ursual von der Leyen said on Wednesday, in a broadcast from Brussels during the live award ceremony for the first-ever "Empress Theophano" prize.

The award recognizes the EU's Erasmus student exchange program, and will be received by European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, who will hand it to von der Leyen in Brussels. 'Empress Theophano' is awarded to individuals or organisations for their contribution to the understanding and strengthening of the notion of the modern European identity.

Named after the Byzantine empress whose contribution was critical in the cultural rebirth of the Western European region, the award was held at the city's historic Rotunda, as signifying the combined Roman, Byzantine, Orthodox, Ottoman and Greek influence on the shaping of Europe.

In her address, von der Leyen said of Erasmus that it has functioned as a "perfect bridge" among the youth of Europe, who felt they were part of a large community beyond their own country's border. "Today, the Erasmus generation is all around us," she said, giving as an example the prime minister of Luxembourg, who spent his time on the program in Thessaloniki.

This is a decisive moment for our Union, she noted and spoke about the "Next Generation EU" program for the revival of the European economy. Greece, she said is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Recovery Fund, as the Next Generation EU funds correspond to 8.7 pct of its GDP, not including loans.

The event was addressed also by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Schinas and honorary European Council president Herman von Rompuy.


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