President Kiska Meets Two Slovak Women with Prestigious Awards

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President Andrej Kiska in conversation with Zuzana Caputova during the reception in Bratislava on May 2, 2016. (Photo by TASR)

Bratislava, May 2 (TASR) – If people act out of conviction and from the heart, they can produce positive results, President Andrej Kiska told journalists at his office when receiving two Slovaks – Zuzana Caputova and Zuzana Stevulova – who recently received awards abroad for their work, TASR learnt on Monday.

Caputova received the Goldman Environmental Prize for her long-term fight against the Pezinok landfill site (Bratislava region) as well as legal work in the field of environmental protection. Stevulova was given the International Women of Courage Award for her personal dedication in fighting for the rights of refugees and migrants, including during Europe’s current migration crisis.

Kiska can see a marvellous story behind Zuzana Caputova that shows that if people spot something that doesn’t work and fight against it, they can change things. “At the same time, it’s a personal story in which a mother of two experienced a great deal of emotion, fear and concerns,” said Kiska, who’s convinced that the Pezinok landfill saga has changed the thinking of the EU, its officials and the whole of society.

According to Caputova, civil society, non-governmental organisations and action taken by ordinary citizens in Slovakia are all vital.

“For people in the same situation as those in Pezinok it’s very important to prepare for a long-term fight in view of the law enforcement system in Slovakia. Our story lasted 14 years,” said lawyer Caputova, adding that her biggest victory is that legal permission for the construction of landfills in Pezinok has been dropped.

The second awardee, Stevulova, came to see Kiska along with Faisal Ahmed Kamali, an Afghan refugee who’s been living in Slovakia for more than two years. They presented a picture to the head of state that shows a refugee in the sea wearing a typical orange life jacket.

“I think that Slovakia has the capacities to help a certain number of refugees by accepting them and giving them the opportunity to integrate. I can imagine that we could help around 1,500 people a year in this way,” said Stevulova.

Caputova received the Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco on April 18. The Goldman Prize, also called the environmental Nobel, has been awarded since 1990. Its laureates are nominated by renowned international environmental organisations and experts for significant contributions in the field of environmental protection. The winners are selected by an international jury.

The Pezinok landfill site, which met with huge resistance from local residents, made headlines for several years. The case has now been closed, and waste is no longer dumped at the site, largely as a result of the efforts of activists and Pezinok local council. The Supreme and Constitutional Courts dealt with the case, as well as the European Court of Justice. Pezinok inhabitants also took their petition to the European Parliament.

Stevulova received the International Women of Courage Award from US Secretary of State John Kerry on March 29. The award honours women who demonstrate exceptional courage and leadership in advocating peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women, often at great personal risk. Stevulova is the first Slovak to receive this honour.