MEP awards: Seven lawmakers recognised for outstanding contribution to EU policymaking

MEP Dragoș Tudorache, left, and MEP Brando Benifei, right
MEP Dragoș Tudorache, left, and MEP Brando Benifei, right Copyright Mathieu CUGNOT/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP
Copyright Mathieu CUGNOT/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP
By Euronews
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Seven Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were awarded Wednesday evening for their outstanding contribution to EU policymaking in the 20th edition of the annual MEP awards.

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Winners included Brando Benifei, Italian MEP for the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), and Dragoş Tudorache, Romanian MEP from the centrist Renew Europe group, who jointly took home the award for MEP of the mandate.

Both have risen to prominence after spearheading the development of the bloc’s ground-breaking Artificial Intelligence Act, a world-first law to regulate AI technology. They are credited with the momentous task of striking a deal on the Act, all the while balancing the interests of 27 EU member countries.

Othmar Karas, an Austrian MEP from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) who serves as one of the parliament’s vice-presidents, bagged the lifetime achievement award. Karas, an expert on financial regulation, is Austria’s longest-serving MEP after 25 years in Brussels.

Former European Commission President Jacques Delors, credited with being the architect of the current EU bloc, was also posthumously recognised with a special award.

Dragoș Pîslaru, a Romanian MEP for Renew Europe who has led the One Europe, One Youth initiative to soften the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on young Europeans, won the Youth Champion award.

Now in its 20th edition, the MEP awards also listed 20 lawmakers considered ‘rising stars’ in EU politics. They included Katalin Cseh of Hungary’s Momentum group, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his ruling Fidesz party, and French centrist MEP Nathalie Loiseau, who chairs the parliament’s sub-committee on defence.

The winners were selected from a shortlist of public nominees by a panel of judges representing a broad range of sectors, from journalism to human rights organisations.

It comes just three months before voters head to the polls in the EU’s 27 member states to elect new representatives to the European Parliament, the only democratically elected EU institution.

The awards are given based on the work of lawmakers during the current five-year mandate, which kicked off in 2019.

MEP Al-Sahlani awarded for best speech

The award for the best speech went to Swedish MEP Abir Al-Sahlani, of the centrist Renew Europe group.

MEP Abir Al-Sahlani delivers award-winning speech in October 2022
MEP Abir Al-Sahlani delivers award-winning speech in October 2022Philippe STIRNWEISS/ European Union 2022 - Source : EP

In May 2022, Al-Sahlani cut off her hair during a speech before the Strasbourg hemicycle in solidarity with Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old killed at the hands of Iran’s morality police for allegedly not adhering to the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

"Until the women of Iran are free. We are going to stand with you,” Al-Sahlani said in the 2022 speech while cutting her hair.

“Woman, life freedom,” she then cried, using the popular slogan that has come to represent Amini’s legacy.

MEPs Fitzgerald, Incir named champions of ‘European values’

The awards for ‘European Values Champions’ of the mandate went to two MEPs who have been at the forefront of the parliament’s fight to pass the first-ever EU law to combat violence against women.

Evin Incir of the S&D group and Frances Fitzgerald of the EPP group were the two lead negotiators on an EU Directive that criminalises forms of violence against women - including forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FMG) - and which was agreed in February.

MEPs Evin Incir, left, and Frances Fitzgerald, right
MEPs Evin Incir, left, and Frances Fitzgerald, rightPhilippe BUISSIN/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP

Both women fought to ensure the crime of rape was also listed as an EU-wide crime, but failed to do so after stern opposition from several EU member states, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, despite these countries being considered amongst the bloc's most progressive nations.

Swedish MEP Evin Incir told Euronews in January she was "very disappointed" with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann for working to block the legislation hand-in-hand with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is "dismantling women's rights in Hungary."

"It's above and beyond my understanding how two liberal men can - hand in hand with an illiberal - form of minority," Incir told Euronews.

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Both say that despite the failure to include rape, the new laws do mean women across Europe are better protected from all forms of violence, including cyber violence such as online harassment and stalking, and the sharing of AI-generated porn images.

Posthumous recognition for Jacques Delors

Jacques Delors, the former President of the European Commission and prominent figure of the French left, was recognised with a special award to mark the 20th edition.

Delors, considered the founding father of the EU currency and the bloc’s single market, passed away in December aged 98.

He is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of the EU institutions, leaving a lasting legacy of deeper European integration.

Enrico Letta, President of the Jacques Delors Foundation, was present at the ceremony to accept the award.

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Others recognised at the ceremony included Katarzyna Biniaszczyk, who took home the award for parliamentary assistant of the mandate, and Raffaella De Marte, head of the parliament’s media services unit, who won the award for outstanding contribution to the work of the parliament.

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