Rita Süssmuth with the Reinhard Mohn Prize, next to her Liz Mohn

Rita Süssmuth receives Reinhard Mohn Prize

Rita Süssmuth, former president of the German Bundestag, was awarded the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Reinhard Mohn Prize on June 11 in Gütersloh. In bestowing the prize, the foundation is recognizing Süssmuth for her pioneering efforts to create a contemporary immigration and integration policy.

"Integration and immigration are among the key issues of our time," Mohn said in her presentation speech. "Through her work, Rita Süssmuth has changed the views Germans have about immigration. She has tirelessly opposed every form of exclusion and discrimination." The Bertelsmann Stiftung is also honoring Rita Süssmuth as a builder of bridges between political camps, between the political sphere, business community and civil society, as well as between religions, Mohn added.

"Courage, goodwill, tolerance and dedication are what have made her one of Germany's leading politicians and earned her considerable recognition even beyond our borders."

Liz Mohn, vice-chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

In the mid-1990s, Süssmuth became the first leading politician from the CDU or CSU parties to declare that Germany should recognize its role as a destination country for immigrants. In 2000, the coalition government of the SPD and Green parties asked her to serve as chairwoman of Germany's Independent Commission on Immigration, which provided major impetus for reform and more favorable attitudes toward immigration. Although the commission's proposals did not win direct political majorities, many of its recommendations were included in the 2005 immigration law.

"It is largely due to Rita Süssmuth that Germany now considers itself a destination country for immigrants."

Aart De Geus, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung

In awarding the prize, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is also recognizing Süssmuth's efforts on behalf of international migrants and their countries of origin. In 2005, she joined the Global Commission on International Migration, which was convened by Kofi Annan, then UN secretary-general and winner of the 2013 Reinhard Mohn Prize.

"We must manage migration in a just manner and take the interests of all participants into account – those of the immigrants and those of the people in destination countries and countries of origin"

Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board, called in his remarks for reconciling all of the relevant interests in a way that is fair, that adheres to the principles of the social market economy, Germany's postwar economic model, and that promotes prosperity and education around the globe. "What Germany needs is a new, more transparent immigration law. Such a law must make it clear that not only do we permit immigration, we actively promote it, along with social participation. For that to be the case, newcomers must be offered the prospect of permanent residency and rapid naturalization," Dräger said.

Süssmuth will use the prize money of €200,000 to support initiatives that help refugees enter vocational training programs and the job market. The initiatives include the Sprint mentoring project carried out by the nonprofit organization Diakonie in Süssmuth's hometown of Wuppertal; the Angekommen program for unaccompanied young refugees, organized by the city of Dortmund, North Rhine–Westphalia's Department of Education and the Walter Blüchert Foundation; the nonprofit organization Caritas Osnabrück, which helps refugees acquire vocational training; and the German branch of Save the Children, the largest independent children's rights organization, which provides assistance to young people from refugee families.