Wednesday, 30 November 2011

MEP Awards 2011: The night when we almost forgot

In a time of crisis the MEP Awards 2011 creates the perfect atmosphere to let loose and enjoy; yet no one has forgotten the challenges that lurk just beneath the surface.

One of the latest popular radio tunes blasts out of the loud speakers and the audience cheers as the Polish MEP Róża Thun gets up to accept her award. She received it in the Internal Market and Consumer Affairs category. She seems genuinely happy and surprised to win: "I'm wondering why you gave me this award?" she asks the audience – most of them MEP's who have all voted online for the candidate they thought best deserves to win. "If you wanted to give me more energy," Mrs. Thun says "this really gives me a kick."
No crisis at the MEP Awards 2011 - at least not at first glance

The Polish MEP is just one out of 16 MEPs who will be announced as the winners of an MEP Award 2011 within the next few hours. On this Tuesday evening in late November some 300 people have gathered in a hotel in Brussels, not far from the European Parliament, to hail a number of MEPs for their extraordinary work in 2011.

It's the seventh time the MEP Award is organised and it seems like an appreciated opportunity for the MEPs to get together and have a good night. The atmosphere is relaxed, the guests are enjoying a drink with friends and colleagues, and the day to day challenges seem to be happily out of sight and therefore out of mind; for a while. It doesn't take much, though, to realise that these people are perfectly aware that Europe is currently facing its biggest challenges yet: The euro zone is in deep crisis, widespread EU scepticism is flourishing in some member states, and unemployment levels are still on the rise – not least among the young Europeans. All these things are far from forgotten this evening.

"In the Employment Committee there is not one single meeting where we don't address the issue of job creation, especially for young people. We cannot accept to have a wasted generation, especially not when you look at the challenges the EU's facing. We need the strength and the cleverness of young people," said the MEP Award winner in the category of Employment and Social Affairs, MEP Pervenche Berès (S&D), to ESJ after the Award show.

Berés urges, just like Annemarie Bruggink did on this blog a few weeks back, all the stagiaires in the European Commission to take full advantage of their stage and make use of their network to take the next step into working life.

"The fact that you have a stage is something, but it's not the end of the story," Berés underlines.

On that note, and on an evening where the challenges in the EU were out of sight but definitely not out of mind, the ESJ is off. The MEP Awards 2011 were good and they almost gave the impression that everything is fine in the Union of Europe.

by Mads Stampe Hansen