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Bilbao prize-giving

November 28, 2009 1:00 PM
Originally published by Diana Wallis

Diana awarding a 'European Citizen Prize' to José María MuñoaAs a Vice President of the European Parliament, Diana Wallis MEP was invited to the Basque country to award a 'European Citizen Prize' to José María Muñoa. Diana had been invited asked by her ALDE colleague Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (a former President of the Basque Parliament, and a member of the Basque Nationalist Party) to make the presentation.

The ceremony took place on Friday 27th November in Donostia, San Sebastian. Mr Munoa was awarded (as one of 37 laureats) for his cross-border activities (in the Basque region of France and Spain) that have promoted the idea of a Europe without borders. The ceremony took place at midday in the Palacio Foral de Gipuzkoa (Gipuzkoa's Provincial Council), a province of the Basque country.

Info on Mr Munoa:

José María Muñoa, whose parents are from the Guipuzcoa region was in fact born in Pau, just accross the border in France in 1942. He has lived and worked in Donibane Lohizune (Sant Jean de Luz), Bayonne and París. He studied engineering in Grenoble and worked for many years in France in this domain. In 1974 he moved to Madrid and worked there until 1983, when he moved to Donostia to work in a centre set up by the Basque Government to help small companies from the region going through economic difficulties.

Jose Mari Muñoa has worked hard for many years to promote Euskadi (the Basque region) throughout Europe.

In 1990, Jose Mari Muñoa was called upon by the Basque government to represent the region in relations with other regions and in 1994 he was nominated as the region's Foreign Affairs representative. As such, and up until 2008, he participated in the sessions and meetings held at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. He was in fact the first person to be entitled to speak Basque in a European Institution (with translation). He is now the leader of Eusko Ikaskuntza, a Basque Studies Society.

About the prize:

The President, VPs and the EP Information offices are allowed to hand out these prizes, which consist of a medal, a diploma and a pin for individuals and a plaque for organisations. It is the first time such prizes have been awarded, as the European Citizen Prize was created in 2009 (as a pet idea of HGP) and a very generous 37 candidates or organisations were given the award this first time round. This is to be organised on a yearly basis.

The prize is intended to honour exceptional achievements in one of the following areas:

• Activities or actions by citizens, groups, associations or organisations which demonstrate an exceptional commitment to promoting better mutual understanding and closer integration among the peoples of the Member States, for example by means of cross-border cooperation within the European Union. Activities or actions by citizens involved in long-term cross-border cultural cooperation, thereby helping to strengthen the idea of Europe, shall also be eligible.

• Everyday actions which put into practice the values of hospitality, solidarity and tolerance or which help to foster European integration.

• Particularly commendable actions by citizens in the context of the EU's work with third countries which demonstrate a practical commitment to solidarity and international cooperation.

The Basque Nationalist Party is the largest and oldest Basque nationalist party. It is currently the largest political party in the Basque Autonomous Community (especially in the Biscay province) also with a minor presence in Navarre (where is a member of the coalition Nafarroa Bai) and a marginal one in the French Basque Country. The party has led the Basque regional government for a long period spanning since the devolution of Basque autonomy in the early 1980s until 2009. It has also played an important role in the Spanish Congress, along other regional nationalist parties.