ATHENS — The Hessian Peace Prize 2020 has been awarded to the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, and the former prime minister of Greece, main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras, the main opposition party said in a press release on Tuesday.
The decision was announced by Boris Rhein, President of the Landtag of Hesse, on Monday. Zaev and Tsipras were given the award for settling the name dispute between the two states and agreeing on the name “Republic of North Macedonia” (Republika Severna Makedonija) for Greece's northern neighbour going forward.
“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, explaining the award.
“The two of them, as head of the Greek government at the time and as prime minister of Macedonia, 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 neighbouring countries would have continued to destabilise the entire Balkan region. 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 ‘Republic of North Macedonia’. For the first time, a period of good neighbourly 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. 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 stressed.
“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. 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,” said Board of Trustees member Professor Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff.
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.
As SYRIZA noted, the Hessian Peace prize is awarded each year to personalities with international prestige and an indisputable contribution to solving differences that go back many years, and for the defence of international law and the rights of peoples.
In the past it has been awarded to figures of international renown, such as the Dalai Lama, Carla Del Ponte, Federica Mogherini, heads of state, diplomats and politicians who have contributed to the peaceful resolution of long-lasting conflicts.