Merkel to receive Four Freedoms Award for financial, refugee crises

Angela Merkel will receive a prestigious award that recognizes her efforts in tackling the string of crises that Europe has been grappling with.

Yves Herman/Reuters/File
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015. Leaders of the European Union met African counterparts on Malta on Wednesday, hoping pledges of cash and other aid can slow the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to be awarded with the International Four Freedoms Medal this coming April.

Merkel will receive the prestigious award for her efforts to tackle the recent major issues that have faced the European Union, ranging from the Greek debt crisis to the refugee influx and the conflict in Ukraine, the Netherlands-based Roosevelt Foundation announced.

According to the Foundation, the award is given to “men and women whose achievements have demonstrated a commitment to those principles which President Roosevelt proclaimed in his historic speech to Congress on January 6, 1941, as essential to democracy: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear.”

Merkel's recognition hardly comes as a surprise. Time magazine's editors recently named her as the Person of the Year, for "asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply"

The announcement for the award comes amid an additional wave of security challenges, such as the New Year’s Eve attack in Cologne, which the police said was perpetrated by foreigners described as being of "Arab or North African" origin. The attack drew additional criticism from those who are opposed to Germany’s acceptance of refugees.

In 2015, Germany took in 1.1 million refugees, more than any other European Union nation and the highest amount since 1950. Other critics of Merkel’s are concerned with the refugee influx, and are skeptical as to whether Germany can handle the high number, at a time when Europe is experiencing an economic downturn.

“Critics of the government’s open-door refugee policy pointed to the New Year’s Eve events in Cologne as evidence that Berlin’s massive dispatch of federal police to oversee the transit of refugees at the country’s borders had left its cities dangerously vulnerable amid rising concern about organized crime and terrorism,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

But Merkel has long argued that Europe is capable of handling the refugees if all the European Union members are willing to share the burden. In a New Year's Eve televised speech, Merkel urged Germans to be more accepting of the refugees.

“There is no question that the influx of so many people will still demand more from us. It will take time, effort and money – especially when it comes to the very important task of integrating those who will be remaining here permanently,” Merkel said. "It is important for us not to let ourselves be divided. Not by generation, and also not socially or into the categories of longtime residents and new residents," she added

As for the prestigious Four Freedoms Medal recognition, Merkel will join a list of prominent leaders who have received the award, such as, former US presidents Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy, former South African President Nelson Mandela, and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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