(Prague, Czech Republic) RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana received the Golden Linden Medal of the Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic at a ceremony in Prague on Friday 13 March.
The medals were awarded by Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova for the exceptional role played by the recipients towards the enlargement of NATO and, notably, the accession of the Czech Republic. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Czech Republic's entry into NATO.
During NATO enlargement talks in the late 1990s, Gedmin served as executive director of the New Atlantic Initiative (founded by RFE/RL executive editor John O'Sullivan), a position he held from 1996 to 2001, and was a resident scholar at American Enterprise Instititute. Albright served as Secretary of State under U.S. President Bill Clinton during his second term, from 1997 to 2001. Solana was Secretary General of NATO from 1995 to 1999.
The medal, awarded for significant contributions to the basic principles of democracy, human rights and liberty, is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon Czech and foreign civilians by the Czech Ministry of Defense.
Also receiving the award were Bruce Jackson for his role as President of the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, current Secretary General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and former NATO press spokeman Jamie Shea. Solana, Scheffer, and Shea received their awards in absentia.
A second medal, the NATO 1999-2009 Commemorative Badge, was also awarded at the ceremony. Recipients were Ms. Albright, Karel Kovanda and Stefan Fule. Mr. Kovanda was the Czech Ambassador to NATO from 1998 to 2005 and is now the Deputy Director of EU Exterior Relations. Mr. Fule is the current Czech Ambassador to NATO. The NATO Commemorative Badge celebrates the Czech Republic's ten years in NATO.
The Golden Linden Medal was created by Minister Parkanova and first awarded in 2008. Recipients last year included victims of the Czechoslovak Communist regime Jan Palach and Milada Horakova, in memorium.
(Photo courtesy Czech Ministry of Defense)