24 April 2022

Dear Participants,

Welcome to İzmir.

Democracy is one of the essential innovations of humanity, which was introduced on the Aegean coast, of which İzmir is a part, where I am the mayor.

The values advocated by the European Union, namely freedom, equality, the rule of law, human dignity, and rights, are the fundamental building blocks of democracy.

But the world has reached such a point that democracy has to gain a new perspective.

This is only possible by developing a horizon that includes nature.

The pandemic, the climate crisis, the wars, and the disasters we have experienced have shown that for the existence of democracy, citizens have much more responsibility than voting.

Active citizenship is the main subject of democracy, especially at the local level. Because in a local area where everyone and everything is so close to each other, it is not enough for the individual to be solely responsible for themselves. There is a need for an understanding in which individuals feel accountable for each other and nature.

In İzmir, we combine social democracy with ecological and economic democracy in order to increase active citizenship.

In a place where the health of nature deteriorates, it is impossible to protect people's health. Just think about it. We feel sick and tired when our body temperature rises even one degree. The same goes for our world. We live on a sick planet now that the world's temperature has increased by more than one degree.

For this reason, democracy needs to be expanded to include respect for nature, harmony with nature, and natural rights to cure this disease. This is what we call ecological democracy. That's why we say now and together.

We support economic democracy to eliminate income inequality. We are expanding cooperatives in agriculture, energy, transportation, construction, and recycling. By supporting the cooperatives, we citizens the subject of production and ensure they have access to governance. We know that a society is only as strong as its weakest link. Economic independence and freedom of citizens can only be consolidated through economic democracy.

Thus, we present a new understanding of democracy in İzmir consisting of social, economic, and ecological democracy that starts from the local. An essential part of our effort is always in harmony with our past and change to support the transfer of knowledge and culture between generations.

We have displayed this stance in İzmir's strategic plan for 2019 - 2024. We became the first municipality to integrate all of the United Nations seventeen sustainable development goals into the city's main strategy.

Sustainable development goals have two basic meanings for İzmir.

The first is to increase welfare and while doing so, prevent income inequality.

The second is to continue the city's growth in harmony with nature.

The starting point of this strategy is to develop and protect İzmir's ecological richness and its economy as a local government. Thus, to ensure that İzmir becomes a resilient city against the climate crisis and natural disasters.

The way to be a resilient city is to see life as a set of values consisting of democracy, natural rights, and harmony with the past and the future.

Our country is going through a period in which it is increasingly withdrawn. There is an economic crisis, and the cost of living is high. Despite all these adverse conditions, we integrate İzmir with the world. İzmir Metropolitan Municipality continues to carry its AAA credit rating with its strong financial management. As in Buca Metro, we continue to attract large-scale international investments to our country.

Our city was declared the world's first CittaSlow Metropolis due to its unique urban vision. By bringing many international meetings, especially fairs, to our city, we are making İzmir a bridge between the Mediterranean and world cities. We have opened the İzmir House in Brussels and five cities in Germany, thus establishing economic and cultural cooperation between Europe and our city.

All of this results from the democratic values we defend in İzmir and our understanding of local government that is open to the world.

Dear Mr. Leader of CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, 

Have no doubt about it. İzmir, the city of liberation and establishment, supports your struggle to lead Türkiye to a more hopeful and fruitful future.

Distinguished parliamentarians of the Council of Europe, dear participants,

We are determined to build a shared future in İzmir without division and polarization. I know very well that this award given to our city tonight is a token of the determination of the people of İzmir.

Thank you so much for being our guests here tonight. This decision taken by the European Award Committee has not only made me and our municipality proud but also all İzmirians.

I receive this prize on behalf of 4.5 million İzmirians, whose hearts beat for unity in the multitude.

I entrust it to the beautiful children and youth of beautiful İzmir.

I want to thank everyone who has contributed and greet you with love and respect.