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Bart Somers named World Mayor winner for 2016  

Georgios Kaminis of Athens and Paweł Adamowicz of Gdańsk also nominated.

Bart Somers, mayor of Mechelen and president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Committee of the Regions, has been awarded the World Mayor Prize for 2016.

Two other CoR members – Georgios Kaminis (EL/PES), mayor of Athens, and Paweł Adamowicz (PL/EPP), mayor of Gdańsk – were on the shortlist of 15 drawn up by the City Mayors Foundation .

The nominees for this year's award were selected for the work they and their communities have done to welcome refugees and offer them safety, shelter and support.

The citation for Mr Somers, who has been mayor of Mechelen since 2001, noted that "long before the flow of refugees from the Middle East and Africa became officially a ‘crisis’ in the summer of 2015, Bart Somers recognised the utmost importance of integration".

Mr Somers, who served as minister-president of Flanders in 2003-04, said: "What counts is not your origin, but your future. If we enforce our fundamental principles consistently, not selectively, and I am talking about equal opportunities, non-discrimination, equality between men and women, freedom of speech, etc, then we make the model of rule of law and democracy more appealing than extremist alternatives."

In mid-2016, Mr Somers drafted a set of recommendations on behalf of the CoR intended to highlight ways in which local and regional authorities can, with the support of national governments and the European Union, work to prevent radicalisation. The decision to produce the opinion – entitled " Combatting Radicalisation and Violent Extremism: Prevention mechanisms at local and regional level " – was made at the CoR's own initiative two days after French- and Belgian-born terrorists killed more than 130 people in Paris in November 2015.

Speaking at the CoR's plenary session in June 2016, the EU's coordinator for counter-terrorism, Gilles De Kerchove, praised the opinion. Mr Somers subsequently discussed the CoR's proposals and shared his own experience at an informal meeting of national interior ministers in Bratislava in August, and during meetings with Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, and Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. Mr Somers became president of the ALDE group in the CoR in late 2016.

Frederik Francois, press officer of the ALDE group
Tel.: +32 2 282 2582