Bart Somers, President of the ALDE Group in the European Committee of the Regions and Mayor of Mechelen, has been awarded the 2016 World Mayor Prize as recognition for his outstanding achievements in welcoming refugees during recent years and for the long-term integration of immigrants from different cultures, religions and social backgrounds.
Tann vom Hove, Senior Fellow at the City Mayors Foundation, said that under the leadership of Mayor Bart Somers, the City of Mechelen has shown Europe that people from many different countries and cultures can come together and be proud citizens:
In awarding the Prize, the World Mayor jury highlighted Mayor Somers’ approach of demanding from all citizens, and in equal measure, a full respect of the rule of law and a total rejection of any kind of discrimination.
The World Mayor jury noted that long before the flow of refugees from the Middle East and Africa became officially a "crisis" in the summer of 2015, Bart Somers recognised the utmost importance of integration: "What counts is not your origin, but your future. If we enforce our fundamental principles consistently, not selectively, and I am talking about equal opportunities, non-discrimination, equality between men and women, freedom of speech, etc, then we make the model of rule of law and democracy more appealing than extremist alternatives."
At the same time, noted the jury, safety and security are essential for people to strive for success and happiness, and they highlighted Mayor Somers’ tough approach on crime, providing more resources to the police force, and installing more CCTV cameras than any other town in Belgium.
Somers doesn’t see this title as a personal achievement, but credits all citizens of Mechelen: "This prize is for all citizens of Mechelen who, in these past years, have made sure that we didn’t let go of each other, that with 128 different nationalities we stayed together."
Somers has been ALDE Group President since October 2016 and was most recently the rapporteur of the opinion on “Combatting Radicalisation and Violent Extremism: Prevention mechanisms at local and regional level". He is Mayor of Mechelen since 2001, and leader of the Flemish liberals in the Flemish Parliament.
The World Mayor Prize is awarded every two years by the philanthropic City Mayors Foundation to a mayor who has made exceptional contributions to his or her community and whose vision for urban living is relevant to towns and cities across the world.
Reported by ALDE-CoR