City of Peace
The Peace of Westphalia treaties were signed and sealed in Münster and Osnabrück on 24th October 1648. They ended a battle for political and religious supremacy in Central Europe, which had lasted for thirty years and resulted in unimaginable suffering, particularly for the German population. The Peace of Westphalia imposed international law. It was the first time in European history that a war had been ended via diplomatic channels at the negotiation table, as opposed to military actions on the battlefield.
Münster’s identity has been influenced by the Peace of Westphalia and the accompanying culture of tolerance. "Tolerance through dialogue" is the city's motto which has been acknowledged by the European Commission, too: In April 2015, the European Heritage Label was bestowed on the historic Town Hall, marking the site a milestone in the genesis of today's Europe, a symbol for European integration, its ideals, values and history.
The city also constituted a stage on the journey towards Cold War conciliation: on 18th June 1990, Foreign Ministers Shevardnadze (Soviet Union) and Genscher (Germany) met in the Town Hall of Westphalian Peace in order to prepare the "Two-Plus-Four Accord", which paved the way for the peaceful reunification of Germany. Peace as a mission:
- Münster underscores its historical responsibility for peaceful co-existence and non-violent conflict resolutions during the annual event series entitled "Westphalian Peace – Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow."
- The Westphalian Peace Prize is awarded bi-annually by the Economic Association of Westphalia and Lippe. One outstanding individual, who is committed to unity and peace in a Federal Europe, and a youth organisation which works in an exemplary manner towards these aims are honoured. The International Space Station was honoured in 2014. Other personalities being awarded were Ex-chancellor Helmut Schmidt, along with the Children for a Better World (2012), Daniel Barenboim and the young musicians of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (2010) or the former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan (2008).
- The message of the Peace of Westphalia endures in the historic Town Hall on the Prinzipalmarkt. The Town Hall is considered one of the Gothic period’s most beautiful secular buildings. The council chamber is the oldest part of the building, and is famous as the "Peace Hall". Although the actual peace treaties were not signed here, peace was invoked in advance of the Spanish-Dutch pact, which resulted in the King of Spain's recognition of sovereignty for the Netherlands. Portraits of the envoys to the complex peace negotiations, which lasted for five years, hang on the walls of the "Peace Hall" in testimony to those times.
- A memorial slab in the fireplace in the Peace Hall bears the inscription: "Anno 1648: 'Pax optima rerum, 24. Oct'. Peace is the greatest good. On 24th October 1998, 20 European heads of state gathered in the Peace Hall to mark the 350th anniversary of Westphalian Peace and rekindle this important message. "