'Political union' call for Europe
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has urged a move towards a political union in Europe as he was given an award for his efforts to steer the continent through its debt crisis.
The crisis must be used as a chance to strengthen Europe, including through a directly elected president of the EU's top executive body, the European Commission, to give the bloc a face and more political weight, Mr Schaeuble said.
"Europe's political unity must have a face and that face must represent a legitimate power," he said as he accepted the International Charlemagne Prize in the western German city of Aachen.
"We must now create a political union in Europe," he stressed, calling on policymakers to make the right decisions and think about strengthening the bloc's institutions.
But he warned that such a move cannot be achieved quickly, but must happen through a step-by-step approach.
"Compared to a revolution, evolution has many advantages, not least that it happens voluntarily and peacefully," he said.
Mr Schaeuble, 69, has been key to drafting Europe's response to the debt crisis as the finance minister of the bloc's biggest economy.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who also chairs the group of the eurozone's 17 finance ministers, praised Mr Schaeuble as a true European patriot. "We need - as Wolfgang Schaeuble also puts it - not less Europe, but more," he said in an opening address in Aachen's historical city hall.
The International Monetary Fund's chief Christine Lagarde praised Mr Schaeuble during a dinner in Aachen late yesterday for standing up to "the toughest test to European integration in post-war history".
Former winners of the award that honours services to strengthen Europe's unification include then ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet (2011), Juncker (2006), Pope John Paul II (2004), US President Bill Clinton (2000) and Tony Blair (1999).
www.aachen.de/en/ (Charlemagne Prize)