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Enda Kenny picks up his European of the Year gong


Kathrin Baumbach

THE Taoiseach was presented with European of the Year award at a ceremony in Berlin this evening - and accepted it on behalf of the Irish people.

Mr Kenny was chosen by the German Magazine Publishers Association (VDZ) in acknowledgment of "the achievements not only of Enda Kenny but Ireland and the Irish people."

The nomination also stated that the "determined response to the current economic and financial crisis has been widely respected, particularly in view of the genuine hardship being experienced by many Irish people."

Accepting the Golden Victoria statuette on the behalf of the Irish people, the Taoiseach said that "words do not exist to describe their courage, their dignity, their generosity in how they have faced and are now facing-down such difficulties".

The award had been due to be presented by last year's recipient, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, but he was unable to attend the ceremony, and instead sent a message of congratulations by video-link.

In his acceptance speech the Taoiseach underlined the importance of recent statements made by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel with regard to an EU deal on Ireland's bank debt.

"We welcome the June commitment to break the destructive circle of banking/sovereign debt.

"We’re encouraged by the discussions to implement this commitment. We’re heartened by Chancellor Merkel’s recognising our unique circumstances, our special case, due to the weight of bank-related debt," he added.

The award ceremony in Berlin was the final port-of-call in a whistle-stop tour of three eurozone countries visited by Mr. Kenny yesterday.

He flew to the Hungarian capital Budapest this morning to meet with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban before he travelled to Vienna to meet with Austria’s Chancellor Werner Faymann.

The Taoiseach is visiting several European heads of government in the run-up to Ireland taking over the EU presidency on January 1st, and today's meetings came in advance of a special European Council meeting on November 22nd and 23rd.

Speaking at a press conference after his meeting in Vienna with Chancellor Faymann, Mr Kenny said he saw his country as an example of how Greece might come out of it's debt crisis.

He said that Ireland had met the savings targets of the Troika; "We are a model for other countries that need to come out of crisis."