2013 "Writing for CEE" prize awarded to French journalists Sébastien Gobert and Laurent Geslin

  • Journalism prize awarded for the 10th time
  • Editor-in-chief of Poland's leading quality newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza", former human rights campaigner and Solidarity activist Adam Michnik, spoke about the current reality of civil unrest in Europe

For the first time in its ten-year history, the "Writing for CEE" journalism prize has not gone to a candidate from Central or Eastern Europe. On Tuesday evening in Vienna, the French journalists Laurent Geslin and Sébastien Gobert were awarded the EUR 5,000 prize, sponsored by the Austrian Press Agency (APA) and UniCredit Bank Austria, for their report on the EU’s external border with Ukraine.

Guest of honour at the ceremony, which took place under the patronage of Austrian President Heinz Fischer, was the Polish former human rights campaigner and Solidarity activist Adam Michnik. Now editor-in-chief of Poland's leading quality newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza", he talked in his speech about the current reality of civil unrest in Europe.

The prize-winning article, published in the newspaper "Le Monde diplomatique", concerned a stretch of land in Ukraine which was once regarded as a possible location for the geographical centre of Europe but which is now on the other side of the Schengen border.

Chairman Ambros Kindel explained that the final choice of his international jury was based on the linguistic and journalistic accuracy with which the authors had described a region of present-day Ukraine that, in the course of history, has been owned by five different countries and has now been completely marginalised. "Journalism has to look where others avert their eyes. Journalism has to find out what it is like for our neighbours who have disappeared behind fences and walls of all kinds", said the CEE expert.

And Europe is still full of change to this day, said prize-winner Gobert. Journalism must take up the mantle, he said, of describing this constant state of flux, the deconstruction and reconstruction of Europe, and keep trying to understand it anew. The spirit of Europe, he added, had not yet fully penetrated all the countries in the EU, something that had been particularly apparent during the recent economic crisis and in the problems that the EU had experienced in trying to forge a common European policy.

The "Writing for CEE" journalism prize was initiated following the large-scale expansion of the EU in 2004. Guests of honour at previous award ceremonies have included Jiri Dienstbier, the legendary activist for the Czechoslovak human rights movement "Charta 77" and later Foreign Minister; Milan Kucan, the first President of Slovenia; the (East) German human rights campaigner Bärbel Bohley; the former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher; and Wolfgang Petritsch, formerly the international community's High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A truly memorable appearance was made by the deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian anti-government newspaper "Novaya Gazeta", Oleg Khlebnikov, in the immediate wake of the dramatic murder of his colleague Anna Politkovskaya.

The list of prize-winners so far includes Czech journalist Lubos Palata (2004); Bulgarian author Diana Ivanova (2005); Bosnian journalist Sefik Dautbegovic (2006); Austrian author Martin Leidenfrost (2007); radio journalist Anna Koktsidou, who was born in Greece and grew up in Germany (2008); Austrian journalist Florian Klenk (2009); Bosnian author Azra Nuhefendic, who now lives in Italy (2010); Slovenian journalist and photographer Meta Krese (2011); and Czech journalist Martin Ehl (2012).

Although the make-up of the jury varies from meeting to meeting, in addition to the previous year’s prize-winner its members currently include Slovakian publicist Michael Berko; Bulgarian author Janina Dragostinova; PR consultant Ildiko Füredi-Kolarik; Polish journalists Igor Janke and Pawel Bravo; Tiemon Kiesenhofer, CEE press spokesman for UniCredit Bank Austria; Ambros Kindel, a media relations advisor based in Vienna; Czech communications expert Milan Smid; and Hungarian radio journalist Julia Varadi.

Enquiries: Bank Austria CEE Press Office
Tiemon Kiesenhofer, Tel. +43 (0_5 05 05 - 56036
E-mail: tiemon.kiesenhofer@unicreditgroup.at