Kurt Pfeiffer, the founder of the Charlemagne Prize, died on January 30, 1987. His last suggestion for the prize was former U.S. State Secretary Henry A. Kissinger. Lively debate followed this nomination, in the course of which two members of the Board (representatives from the City Council) resigned; a critical review of the goals of the Charlemagne Prize followed. In order to emphasize its character as a prize conferred by the citizens of Aachen, the award was renamed the ‘International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen’.
The discussion starting in 1987, particularly the upheavals that shortly followed in Eastern Europe, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, led to the updating and further development of the Charlemagne Prize. These changes were reflected in the choice of laureates as well as in the stated objectives of the prize. One noticeable change was the widening of the founders’ gaze, which had previously focused only on Western Europe: the State Secretary of the Republic of Hungary, Gyula Horn, was awarded the prize a few months after he and his Austrian counterpart Alois Mock opened up the barbed-wire fence between the two countries.
In a joint declaration in 1990, the City of Aachen and the Board of Directors of the Charlemagne Prize expanded the founding proclamation of 1949. In the new version, they formulated a broader understanding of European politics, which included ‘balancing out North–South discrepancies’ and ‘protecting natural resources’ in addition to aiming for the ‘overall unification of the peoples of Europe.’
Since 1991, the conferring has taken part within a larger program of cultural offerings, culminating in a big public celebration in the Katschhof, the square between the Town Hall and the Cathedral. The laureate takes part in this celebration, along with the Mayor and the Charlemagne Prize Board. The ceremony concludes with short speeches to the public.