MEP Awards 2015: A few words from the winners
MEP and former commission vice-president Viviane Reding has hosted the Parliament Magazine's annual event in Brussels recognising MEPs for their outstanding work.
Reding took to the stage on Wednesday for the 11th MEP awards in the glamorous Concert Noble hotel in Brussels' EU district, where 18 members of the European parliament were rewarded for their work.
Kicking off the ceremony, Reding pointed to the importance of the awards, saying they "recognise the extraordinary work done by MEPs".
The former commission vice-president also praised the high number of votes received in the run-up to the awards, adding that the 566 votes cast numbered "more than some plenary sessions".
The first award of the night went to Jan Huitema (ALDE, Netherlands) for agriculture, who said in a video message, "as a farmer myself, I understand the importance of innovation in farming".
He praised "Europe's hard working farmers", also saying, "this award recognises and encourages innovation in agriculture".
The animal welfare award went to Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, Finland), who told the audience, "I am very grateful for the nomination, thank you for the votes. However, many of us don't have any reason to be proud - we have only been taking baby steps" in terms of animal welfare.
She highlighted that "a lot remains to be done", explaining that "the way we treat animals tells us what kind of people we are and how we treat other people".
Eva Paunova (EPP, Bulgaria) was awarded best newcomer, and she said that "despite working in the European parliament for five years [as an assistant], a lot has changed - these have been stressful and busy times, but I am very thankful for all the people who have supported, energised and inspired me".
She added that she has been enjoying "gaining experience from colleagues" and that "this is just the start".
Evelyn Regner (S&D, Austria) won the corporate governance award, with Viviane Reding thanking her for "helping me so much with women on boards".
Regner said, "good governance must be possible, and companies must act as liable parts of society". Talking about balancing home and work life, she underlined that MEPs "try to make the best of this extraordinary life".
The development award went to Davor Ivo Stier (EPP, Croatia), who explained that his work revolved around "fighting poverty and inequality and promoting the protection of wildlife and our planet".
He added, "good governance is important for human dignity".
Winning for his work on the digital agenda, Victor Negrescu (S&D, Romania) thanked his national party "for allowing a 29 year old to run".
He told the crowd, "Europe doesn't need [Facebook founder] Mark Zuckerberg - we have our own, and Europe can be better than Silicon Valley, but for this to happen we need more than words".
Pablo Zalba Bidegain (EPP, Spain) won the economic and monetary affairs award, and said "this award should be for all my fellow nominees".
He thanked his "team, assistants and the economic and monetary affairs secretariat for their exceptional work", as well as MEPs who are "no longer with us who did excellent work in the previous term".
Martina Dlabajová (ALDE, Czech Republic), recipient of the employment and social affairs award, said, "I am very honoured", thanking her colleagues as, "without them I would not be standing here tonight".
She told the audience, "I would give up this award immediately if it meant changing the way of thinking of people in the EU - we need to be more motivated and more active".
She concluded by dedicating her award to "all of those who are motivated and talented in the EU".
Adina-Ioana Vălean (EPP, Romania), the winner of the energy award said, "I have been working for the past seven years on energy policy" and outlined her hope for the realisation of a "true energy union".
The recipient of the environment award Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, Netherlands) told those gathered that, "the transition to the sustainable economy is happening and we need to speed this up". He added that, "this award is proof we are on the right track".
Alojz Peterle (EPP, Slovenia), the health award winner told the audience that, "it is a surprise for me to win this award for the third time". "Our motto should be health first and until this is true, we cannot say we have been truly successful", he added.
To ensure success, Peterle said, "we have to work together" and the Slovenian MEP called for MEPs to "work together for more health in Europe as more Europe equals more health".
The winner in the ICT category Paul Rübig (EPP, Austria) via video message from the United States said he has been "fighting for the digital single market for many years".
Roberta Metsola (EPP, Malta), the justice and civil liberties winner addressed the audience in a recorded message from a parliamentary delegation visit to Washington, saying the work of the LIBE committee was instrumental in fighting for privacy, fundamental rights, tackling homophobia and many other positive developments.
The Maltese deputy said that, "no MEP could do anything by themselves" and "there is much work left to do". Metsola also said, "Being from a small country is no limit to the work I can do."
Regional policy award recipient Lambert van Nistelrooij (EPP, Netherlands) thanked his fellow MEPs for this "wonderful award".
He said, "There is a long relationship between Europe and its regions and this has changed."
The Dutch MEP said regional policy was "very important" and that it is "moving more in the direction of entrepreneurship". He also emphasised the importance of "bringing Europe closer to the citizens".
Christian Ehler (EPP, Germany), the research and innovation category winner told the audience of the importance of the Horizon 2020 programme and said, "parliament's influence changed the project for the better".
He praised the policy calling it an "innovative and flexible research programme" but noted that there is a "tendency to loot the research and innovation budget" to reach the three per cent debt target and that in parliament, "we are going to fight for this budget".
Christofer Fjellner (EPP, Sweden), the trade and internal market winner said his award "is an acknowledgement of the hard work in fighting for free trade".
He added that, "some think I go too far for free trade, but it is good to know my work is recognised".
Winning in the transport category, Franck Proust (EPP, France) said it was "the crowning achievement of a year full of hard work and parliamentary reports".
He thanked his family and his brother "for keeping me grounded in the business world, which for a politician is very important".
More than 400 guests turned out on the night for the awards, which are now in their 11th year, to enjoy drinks generously supplied by The Brewers of Europe and Diageo.
Jo Leinen (S&D, Germany), the winner of the outstanding achievement award for his sterling work as part of the parliament's preparations for and representation at the UN climate change conference, said it was a "real honour to receive this award" and recalled that "40 years ago in March 1975, I began my work to protect and preserve ecosystems on this planet".
Leinen outlined that, "the European movement exists outside the 28 member states" and "other states want to be part of our Europe".
Reding described the German Socialist as "a fighter for a united states of Europe" and said the award was "only a small facet of his work" which is "recognised worldwide", particularly in the area of climate change.
A passionate believer in a united Europe, Leinen closed by emphasising the success that the European project encapsulates.