The Secretary-General was in the ancient continental capital of Aachen, close to the French border, where he received the Charlemagne Prize, awarded each year since 1950, for services towards European unification.
As a former Portuguese Prime Minister, and one of the architects of the European Union’s efforts in the late 1990s to strengthen social safety nets, solidarity, and cooperation with Africa and India, Mr. Guterres described himself as a “committed European” who understood that, in bestowing the award, Aachen was paying tribute “to the commitment, service, and sacrifice of the women and men of the United Nations”.
The European Union, which grew out of the ashes of two world wars, has forged “an exemplary partnership” with the United Nations, said Mr. Guterres, and the breakup of the 28-nation political and economic bloc, “would inevitably be the failure of multilateralism and the failure of a world in which the rule of law can prevail”.
“The hard truth is we collectively have taken too many things for granted”, he added, noting that democratic principles “are under siege, and the rule of law is being undermined. Inequalities are on the rise. Hate speech, racism and xenophobia are fuelling terrorism through social media”.
Hailing Europe’s continuing role as a champion of universal values, he said that multilateralism was under fire “precisely when we need it most, and when it has never been so fit to address these challenges”.