The Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament and human rights worldwide

The Statute of the Sakharov Prize

Adopted in July 1988, the Statute of the Sakharov Prize originally stipulated that laureates would receive 5000ecus and that anyone could be a candidate, regardless nationality and place of residence. The European Parliament would also facilitate the publication of the award holder’s written works. Initial nominations for the Sakharov Prize required the support of at least 25 Members, followed by a proposal of three nominees by the European Parliament’s Political Affairs Committee to the enlarged Bureau, if necessary after the consultation of Sakharov himself. It was then up to the Bureau to select the final candidate. The Sakharov Prize would then be presented during a plenary session by the President of Parliament. Over the years, the value of the prize has gradually increased to 50,000 euro in recognition of the importance of those fighting for human rights worldwide.

But further change was to follow. In 2003, major modifications were made to the Statute of the Sakharov Prize on the basis of proposals by German Member Elmar Brok, the then Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy. In an effort to widen the Prize’s scope it was decided that the prize should honour a particular achievement (intellectual or artistic work or active contribution) in the field of the defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of expression.

The prize would also now honour the safeguarding the rights of minorities, upholding international law, the development of democracy and implementation of the rule of law. Nominations could now be supported by a political group, although individual Members could give their support to only one nominee. It was then the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee’s task to propose three nominees to the Conference of Presidents, which comprised of the President of the European Parliament and the political group chairs, where the final laureate would be selected. As a result of the enlargements of the European Union and the increase in the number of Members, any potential applications now required support from 40 Members.