Writing for CEE - Journalism Prize

"Writing for CEE" international journalism prize goes to Austrian Florian Klenk

APA and Bank Austria present prize for reportage on conditions at the Schengen border to Ukraine - Former GDR civil rights activist Bohley as guest speaker

Preisverleihung Florian KlenkBärbel BohleyFritz von FriedlPublikum
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Vienna, 18.11.2009 - The deputy chief editor of the Vienna newspaper "Falter", Florian Klenk, has been awarded the "Writing for CEE" journalism prize for 2009. The 36-year-old investigative journalist received the 5000 euro prize awarded for the sixth time by APA - Austria Press Agency and the Bank Austria-UniCredit Group for a report which appeared in the "Berliner Zeitung" and "Falter". It is titled "Hinter dem Zaun" ("Behind the Fence") and addresses the conditions in one of the refugee camps located in Ukraine in the Slovak-Hungarian-Ukrainian border area.

With the enlargement of Schengen in December 2007 the problem was "shifted away" from Austria, Klenk writes, "out of the 'Union of Law', as the EU likes to refer to itself. Here no one feels responsible anymore; the critical European public only seldom glances in this direction." So Klenk took an even closer look. After all, the now closed refugee camp of Pavshino in Transcarpathia is just five hours from Vienna. But also the local population suffers from the Schengen border, of whose protection the EU is proud. Thus for many citizens even travelling to the burials of close relatives on the other side of the border is impossible. On Tuesday evening Klenk especially criticised the forgetting of any proportion in this regard.

In addition to the issue of migration with all its consequences and side effects, the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago was the focus of this year's award ceremony. As guest speaker, former GDR civil rights activist Bärbel Bohley explained that for the citizens of Eastern Europe the time before the "fall of the wall" was a "time of hope". The "time of bitter reality" came afterward. Thus critical views below the surface must also be permitted in spite or specifically because of the "sounds of rejoicing" at the 20th anniversary celebrations. After all, one thought has accompanied her throughout her life: "stand up and say no."

It is "these small stories of individual destinies which often do a better service to Europe than high politics," APA Chief Editor Michael Lang said, highlighting the importance of such reportages. They also help come closer to the goal pursued by the CEE journalism prize awarded by Bank Austria and APA: "overcoming boundaries and prejudices." Europe ultimately displays its strengths "when rivals become good neighbours and neighbours become good friends."

Jury spokesperson and APA foreign affairs chief Ambros Kindel also referred to the events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He regretted that the legitimate term of "revolution" has yet to be reflected in current historical consideration. In fact, the meaningless term "Wende" ("change" or "turning point" has taken hold, an elocution attributed to the last secretary general of the SED, Egon Krenz.

"Writing for CEE" is aimed at supporting journalistic treatment of issues concerning European integration. The members of the international jury are former advisors to former Czech President Havel, Jiri Pehe, Slovak journalist Michael Berko, communication advisor Ildiko Füredi-Kolarik, Slovenian writer Joze Hudecek, Polish journalist Igor Janke, Hungarian radio journalist Julia Varadi, Bulgarian journalist Janina Dragostinova, the spokesperson for the CEE prize from Bank Austria-UniCredit Group, Silvana Lins, and APA foreign affairs chief Ambros Kindel. The prize will be awarded again in 2010.

The list of previous prize-winners includes Czech journalist Lubos Palata (2004), Bulgarian writer Diana Ivanova (2005), Bosnian journalist Sefik Dautbegovic (2006), Austrian writer Martin Leidenfrost (2007) and the radio journalist Anna Koktsidou (2008), who was born in Greece and grew up in Germany.

The best works from the first five "Writing for CEE" years have appeared in the collection of essays titled "Which Road to Europe", Ambros Kindel (Ed.), Wieser-Verlag, Klagenfurt, 2008.