Volodymyr Zelenskyy Wins Charlemagne Prize
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people are the recipients of the 2023 International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, the board of directors announced on December 16. Awarded since 1950, the prize is given to “public figures or bodies ‘distinguished by their outstanding work toward European unity or cooperation between states.’” Recent laureates include Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Pope John Paul ii and United States President Bill Clinton. The award ceremony will be later in the spring.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine overshadows the prize’s awarding. “The [Ukrainian] people,” the press release reads, “under the leadership of their president … are fighting to defend not only the sovereignty of their country and the lives of its citizens, but also Europe and European values.”
The release continues:
In his recently published book, A Message From Ukraine, [Zelenskyy] reiterates his vision of his country as a democratic and free nation, as a society of values according to the European model, and as part of Europe. He describes how Ukraine was “reborn” on 24 February, that the process of nation-building, though not yet completed, was actually accelerated by the Russian war of aggression—and that, most importantly, Ukraine has since moved closer to Europe. …
By awarding the Charlemagne Prize 2023 to both the president and the people, the Board of Directors of the Society for the Conferring of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen underscores the fact that Ukraine is part of Europe and that its population and its government representatives—headed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy—support and defend European values, and therefore deserve this encouragement to enter swiftly into accession negotiations with the European Union.
The Ukraine war is the biggest conflict Europe has seen since World War ii. The Ukrainians’ courage and determination in the face of such an intimidating foe is admirable. Some credit is deserving. But it wasn’t a prize primarily about peacemaking that Zelenskyy won. Instead, he won the world’s most prestigious award for European unification.
Why is this significant? There are three main reasons. Notice some of the language the press release uses: “[M]ost importantly, Ukraine has since moved closer to Europe”; “Ukraine is part of Europe”; “[Ukrainians] deserve this encouragement to enter swiftly into accession negotiations with the European Union.” Nobody is arguing that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are justified. As our coverage shows, Putin has demonstrated in Ukraine “evil on the level of Joseph Stalin.” But part of the reason Putin started the invasion was because of he believes the West has been trying to take Eastern Europe from Russia’s sphere of influence and add it to its own.
Putin often points to Ukraine’s 2014 Euromaidan Revolution as the cause of the problems. Viktor Yanukovych became president in 2010 following an election outside observers dubbed free and fair. Yanukovych supported Ukraine joining the EU, but Putin pressured Yanukovych to call off EU negotiations. Instead, Yanukovych’s government drew closer to Russia. Ukrainians were so outraged that they ousted Yanukovych in the 2014 revolution. In short, a pro-EU mob forced a democratically elected president from power. Putin has since accused the West of trying to force Ukraine away from Russia and into the Western sphere.
Putin’s goal as Russia’s leader has always been to get control of Ukraine. The language in the Charlemagne Prize’s press release suggests Putin was right about Europe’s designs on Ukraine.
Ukraine does not belong to Europe. Ukraine belongs to whomever the Ukrainian people want Ukraine to belong to. Ukraine is not even an EU member state, yet the board is saying the “most important” outcome of February 24 is that Ukraine is closer to becoming one. Admitting Ukraine as an EU member would be a less-horrific takeover of the country than what Russia is trying to do. But European states have as moral obligation to join the EU as Canada has to join the United States—i.e. none.
It is important to note that the Charlemagne Prize is patronized by various European royalty and works in cooperation with the European Parliament. So the call for Ukraine to join the EU is not only from a bunch of scholars in Aachen, Germany; it has the backing of Europe’s elite.
A second reason this is significant: Ukraine could never join the EU while the war drags on. An attack on one EU member state is an attack on all. If Ukraine joined the EU, all of the EU—from Latvia to Malta to Ireland—would have to join the war. This would be a nuclear war. And this is the last thing anybody Europe’s halls of power wants right now.
So how has the situation in Ukraine contributed to European unity?
Before February 24, Europe had a lot of problems getting in the way of the formation of a powerful, united Europe. After February 24, many of these problems have been smoothed over.
For example, one obstacle to European unity was squabbles between Eastern and Western Europe. Certain East European countries were led by conservative populists who frequently butted heads with the West’s “eurocrats.” Czech President Miloš Zeman, for example, was considered a friend of Putin. Poland’s Catholic-interests government clashed with Brussels over issues like supporting homosexuality. The Ukraine crisis has wiped away a lot of these problems. Zeman has become a vocal opponent of Putin. Poland has turned into one of Europe’s most valued partners in fighting Putin; they’re on track to becoming the third-largest army in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Cracks remain between Eastern and Western Europe, but the Ukraine crisis is still bringing “the two Europes” together like few things could.
The war is also hastening Europe’s rise as an independent military power. For decades, Europe has relied on the United States through nato for its security. But the war is giving Europe the excuse to build a military that can stand on its own. Poland is not the only country rearming. So is Germany. On February 27—three days after the war started—German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made a surprise announcement: He unveiled plans to make Germany the biggest military spender in Europe. The German parliament this month approved the purchase of F-35 fighter jets from the U.S.—aircraft designed to carry nuclear weapons. Finland and Sweden, meanwhile, have applied to join nato. Even formerly neutral countries want to band closer together with Europe to form a united military.
These kinds of developments would probably have been impossible in normal days. Germany raising its military spending so abruptly would have normally raised a lot of eyebrows. Because of its role in World War ii—and the ensuing distrust from its neighbors—Germany has been reluctant to build a strong military. But with the current circumstances, politicians in Europe and elsewhere are calling on Germany to become a military powerhouse.
None of this would have happened without Vladimir Putin. In a sense, Putin may be actually a more deserving recipient of the prize than Zelenskyy. He certainly has contributed more to European unity. The press release states that Ukraine was “reborn” on February 24. The same can be said about Europe itself.
There is a third aspect to note about the Charlemagne Prize. It is by far the most important but also the most overlooked. This relates to the man the prize is named after.
German entrepreneur Dr. Kurt Pfeiffer and associates created the Charlemagne Prize Society in 1950. With the horrors of World War ii in the recent past—and half of Europe divided by the Iron Curtain—activists like Pfeiffer saw the solution to Europe’s problems was political unity. They wanted to establish an award “intended to win over the Western public to the idea of a united Europe.”
Pfeiffer was from Aachen, the first German city to be conquered by the Western Allies from the Nazis. It was also the former imperial capital of Charlemagne. Charlemagne was a Frankish king who reigned from 768 to 814. His Carolingian Empire was a vast realm ruling over much of Europe. On Christmas Day in a.d. 800, the pope crowned Charlemagne “Holy” Roman emperor, making Charlemagne the successor to the caesars of old. And it made his empire the legitimate successor of ancient Rome.
“Holy” is in quotes because Charlemagne’s empire was anything but saintly. He was a violent warlord who spilled rivers of blood to forge his empire. When one German tribe, the Saxons, resisted Charlemagne’s attempts to conquer and catholicize them, Charlemagne led 33 years of warfare to subjugate them. In one instance, he ordered the execution of 4,500 Saxons in one day. The 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica reads: “The violent methods by which this missionary task was carried out had been unknown to the earlier Middle Ages, and the sanguinary [bloody] punishment meted out to those who broke canon law or continued to engage in pagan practices called forth criticism in Charles’s own circle.”
Millenniums after Charlemagne’s death, kings and warlords have fought to resurrect his Europe-wide “Holy” Roman Empire. These include such bloody individuals as Charles v, Napoleon and, most recently, Adolf Hitler.
Charlemagne’s empire also laid the foundation for modern European states like France and Germany. In fact, both the French and the Germans look to Charlemagne as a “founding father” of sorts. His establishment of Catholicism as the state religion cemented the Catholic Church’s influential role on European history. Because of this, Charlemagne is often called “the father of modern Europe.” Despite his odious legacy—and the legacies of later despots who ruled under his banner—modern Europe sees Charlemagne as someone to celebrate.
The Charlemagne Prize, of course, embraces this connection. “By using the name of Charlemagne,” the prize’s website states, “the proclamation [of the prize] also included the idea of the Christian Occident—symbolically looking backward to the Carolingian Empire as inspiration for unity in administration, culture, religion, legislation and writing, while pointing the way toward the future with a model for the task ahead: the economic and political unification of Europe.”
The press release for Zelenskyy’s solution for the prize stated that he is fighting to defend “European values.” Yet if Charlemagne’s legacy defines what “European values” look like, they look more like Putin’s values.
What kind of Europe does the Charlemagne Prize call for? Whatever it is, Ukraine is playing a significant role in its formation.
We don’t have to guess about what the Europe of the future looks like. The Trumpet uses one, often overlooked source in its Europe analysis. It is a source that has time and again proved accurate—and it is indispensable to understanding Europe’s future accurately. This source is the Holy Bible.
Many dismiss Bible prophecy as filled with complex symbols that are too hard to understand. But understanding such prophecies becomes much easier when one understands the Bible interprets its own symbols. For example, in the Bible, a “woman” is often a symbol of a church (e.g. Ephesians 5:22-32; 2 Corinthians 11:1-3), and a “beast” is a biblical symbol of an empire (Daniel 7—notice especially verses 17 and 23). These two keys especially make the following prophecy much easier to understand: “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration” (Revelation 17:1-6).
Tie this in with other prophecies like Revelation 13, and the identity of this “beast” is revealed: the Roman Empire. (Request a free copy of Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?, by Herbert W. Armstrong for more information.) But Rome fell centuries ago. How does this prophecy relate to today?
Revelation 17:10 elaborates. “And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come ….” The “seven heads” are seven consecutive rulers of this empire. Each ruler was to rise, fall and be replaced by another “head.” In history, this rising and falling system was known as the Holy Roman Empire.
Secular history records six of these resurrections. Men like Charlemagne and Hitler led them. But the prophecy says there would be seven. This unholy system is also prophesied to be around at the Second Coming of Christ (verse 14).
This means there is one more to come. The Trumpet expects this final “head of the beast” to come from Europe’s modern unification project.
This beast, meanwhile, is ridden by a “woman,” or a church. She represents a great and powerful church, decked in material splendor and able to rein in empires. Charlemagne’s catholicizing of Europe is reflective of this. And keep in mind how the Charlemagne Prize’s website is inspired by “the idea of the Christian Occident—symbolically looking backward to [Charlemagne’s] Empire as inspiration for unity in administration, culture, religion, legislation and writing, while pointing the way toward the future with a model for the task ahead” (emphasis added).
Jean Monnet, one of the EU’s founding fathers, said, “Europe will be forged in crisis, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.” The Ukraine war is by far the biggest crisis Europe has seen in years. And European leaders are taking advantage of this crisis to forge the Europe of the future—a strong, powerful Europe in the spirit of Charlemagne’s empire. If anything, the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the best excuse they’ve had for this in a long time.
This makes the 2023 Charlemagne Prize a hidden thank you to Putin for making all of this possible. Putin likely doesn’t care that much. But for many in Brussels, Berlin and elsewhere, the gratitude is heartfelt.
To learn more, please request a free copy of The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy, by theTrumpet.com managing editor Brad Macdonald. To learn how the Ukraine war specifically plays into Europe’s future, read our May-June 2022 issue, “Prophecy Comes Alive in Ukraine.”