Article 2 of the Constitution of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation reads as follows:
Within the context of the cultural traditions of Europe in general and the ideas of Erasmus in particular, the aim of the Foundation is to enhance the position of the humanities, the social sciences and the arts, and to promote appreciation of these fields within society. The emphasis is on tolerance, cultural pluralism, and un-dogmatic, critical thinking. The Foundation endeavours to achieve this aim through the award of prizes and by other means; a money prize is awarded to a person or institution under the name of Erasmus Prize.
In accordance with this article, His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Patron of the Foundation, has confirmed the decision of the Board of the Foundation to award the Erasmus Prize for the year 2001 to Claudio Magris and Adam Michnik.
The prize is awarded to mr Magris and to mr Michnik jointly on the following grounds:
Through their actions and their writings, both mr Magris and mr Michnik have contributed to a democratic society based on values such as tolerance and acceptance of differences.
To convey their thinking in writing, both authors have used the genre of the essay in an optimal way, switching from personal experience to wide-ranging reflection and detailed description.
In their work, the laureates have insistently described the dilemmas of taking personal responsibility in times of repression and foreign rule.
Both men have demonstrated how our awareness of identity and perception of truth may be affected by a change in the political system or by shifts of geographic boundaries.
They have shown that the history and culture of Central Europe should be of concern to all those who are interested in European diversity and European integration.
In his essays, Claudio Magris presents intimate, micro-descriptions of places and persons, with an implicit message that warns us not to forget the history of the present.
In a rich and elegant narrative prose style, Claudio Magris demonstrates the effect of boundaries and frontiers on our perception of the world, forcing us to view the world from different perspectives.
In his essays, Adam Michnik explores the space between heroism and treason, between activism and collaboration, and demonstrates how he has mastered the art of compromise and tolerance.
In an original and persistent manner, Adam Michnik has been instrumental in building up a democratic and pluralistic society in a country where there is no strong democratic tradition, and has thereby set an example for similar non-violent transitions in other countries.
The Erasmus Prize is awarded to Claudio Magris and Adam Michnik jointly, because their qualities can be viewed as complementary aspects of the same message, a message that is perfectly fitting the ‘Erasmian’ virtues of tolerance and un-dogmatic thinking.