German Chancellor Angela Merkel accepted the Carlos V European Award from Spanish King Felipe VI at a ceremony in Spain Thursday.
In her acceptance speech, she called on Europeans to overcome their differences and work together to protect the planet.
“I won’t be there anymore but will watch closely how far the ability to compromise goes,” she said.
German elections were held last month, but Merkel remains on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the German ambassador to Spain, Wolfgang Dold, were also in attendance. The award honors people, organizations and projects that enhance Europe’s cultural and historic values. It has been awarded since 1995, and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl received it in 2006.
In bestowing the award, King Felipe VI said Merkel was “a personality who had always been ahead of her time.”
Merkel calls for European unity
In her acceptance speech, Merkel said more attention needed to be paid toward forces dividing Europeans.
“Let’s not kid ourselves: Centrifugal forces have been at work in the EU for several years now,” Merkel said after receiving the award. The chancellor added that divisions arise when the EU does not fulfill its promises and inequality is allowed to grow.
“Europe is only as strong as it is united,” she said.
Merkel also used her speech to call for a for a revamped approach from the European Union on addressing climate change
“People speak much too often about the costs of climate protection and much too little about the cost of failing to protect the climate,” she said, referencing July’s devastating floods in Germany.
Merkel urged the audience at the Royal Monastery of Yuste, about 230 kilometers (140 miles) west of Madrid in the province of Caceres, to think of “new market opportunities, new technologies, new employment opportunities.”
She said the EU goals that were agreed on last December of slashing emissions by 55% over the decade and the 27-nation bloc’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 will be “very hard work.”
ar/wmr (AP, dpa)