Brussels, 9 December -- The winners of the 2008 Worst EU Lobbying Awards have been revealed at a ceremony in Brussels today, despite a last minute attempt to gag the organisers with legal action from one of the candidates. More than 8500 people took part in the online public vote .
One of the candidates for the Worst Conflict of Interest Award, suspended Commission official Fritz-Harald Wenig, unsuccessfully tried to silence the Worst EU Lobbying Awards last week by taking legal action in the Court of First Instance in Brussels to have his name removed from the nominations and not have his name mentioned during the Worst Lobbying Awards ceremony. The court ruled that freedom of speech was more important in this case.
Left: Agrofuels lobbyists won the vote for the Worst EU Lobbying Award 2008; Right: Finnish MEP Piia-Noora Kauppi won the award for Worst Conflict of Interest (Photo credit:Lode Saidane/FoEE)
This year's Award for the Worst EU Lobbying 2008, with more than 50% of the votes, goes to a joint nomination for the agrofuel lobbyists, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, Brazilian sugar barons UNICA and energy company Abengoa Bioenergy for their use of misleading information and greenwash. The lobbyists tried to influence crucial debates in the European Parliament and Council by claiming that agrofuels (crops used for fuel for cars and lorries) are sustainable .
The Worst Conflict of Interest Award 2008 goes to the Finnish MEP Piia-Noora Kauppi, with 26% of the votes cast. MEP Kauppi has been promoting the interests of her future employer, a banking lobbying group, while still an active member of the European Parliament. Kauppi has consistently urged light-touch regulation for the banking sector and in January 2009 will officially be employed by the Federation of Finnish Financial Services .
Left: Comedians Mark Thomas and Frank van Schalk hosted the annual awards ceremony; Right: Preparations for the ceremony in Brussels (Photo credit:Lode Saidane/FoEE)
Commenting on the Conflict of Interest vote, Olivier Hoedeman, from Corporate Europe Observatory said:
"The voters' choice of Piia-Noora Kauppi reflects real concern about MEPs being too closely aligned with corporate lobbyists. Stronger rules are needed to prevent conflicts of interest, including a 'cooling off' period for MEPs going through the revolving door to become industry lobbyists."
He added that the lack of adequate transparency and ethics rules make it far to easy for MEPs to accept paid work, hospitality and other benefits from businesses which have a direct interest in the legislative process .
Commenting on the Worst EU Lobbying Award, Christine Pohl from Friends of the Earth Europe said:
"These three agrofuel lobbies have invested heavily in misleading propaganda aimed at influencing the Parliament's and Council's decision on targets for using agrofuels in transport. Each of them is guilty of political greenwash, claiming that using crops to feed cars is sustainable and ignoring damage to the environment and the livelihoods of local people."
The runners-up in the Worst EU Lobbying category were the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for its deceptive lobbying campaign to avoid CO2 reduction obligations in the aviation sector and PR agencies Gplus and Aspect Consulting for supporting the spread of war propaganda in the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia. The runners-up in the Worst Conflict of Interest category were British MEPs Caroline Jackson for her twin roles as an MEP dealing with environmental issues and as an environmental advisor to a private waste management company and German MEP Klaus-Heiner Lehne for his dual role as an MEP and lawyer for EU competition and regulatory issues.
British activist and comedian Mark Thomas, who jointly presented the awards at the ceremony in Brussels, said:
"The most fundamental tenet of democracy has to be transparency. If we don't know what politicians are doing and whose interests they are representing how can we even begin to control and elect them? By naming and shaming the winners of the Worst EU Lobbying Awards, I hope we can illustrate the crucial need for action across the EU to prevent such conflicts of interest and corporate abuse from damaging people's lives and the environment."
The audience at the Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2008, held at Le Bouche a Oreille (Photo credit:Lode Saidane/FoEE)
So far, just one of the nominees for the Worst Lobbying Awards, IATA, has registered in the Commission's lobbying register .
The Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2008 is organised by Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe, Lobbycontrol and Spinwatch.
Worst Lobbying Award:
The agrofuels lobby (including MPOC, Unica and Abengoa) 52%
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) 14%
Gplus and Aspect Consulting 13% The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines (EAASM) 12%
The European Business and Parliament Scheme (EBPS) 10%
[Total online votes cast 8643]
Worst Conflict of Interest Award:
Piia-Noora Kauppi MEP 26%
Dr Caroline Jackson MEP 23%
Klaus-Heiner Lehne MEP 22%
Ex-European Commission officials Petite, Klotz and Kjolbye 14%
Commission official Fritz-Harald Wenig 14%
[Total online votes cast 8394]
Full details on all the nominees can be found at: http://www.foeeurope.org/corporates/worstlobby/candidates.pdf http://www.worstlobby.eu/2008/vote
 Further information about the misleading campaign of MPOC, UNICA and Abengoa can be found at: http://www.worstlobby.eu/2008/vote/info/5/worstlobby
 Further details of Piia-Noora Kauppi's conflict of interest can be found at: http://www.worstlobby.eu/2008/vote/info/7/worstconflictofinterest
Piia-Noora Kauppi is currently on maternity leave but continues to speak out on banking issues e.g. http://www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2008/11/21/afx5726022.html
 For further examples of similar "revolving door" and other conflicts of interest cases, see the Spinwatch report, Too Close for Comfort, July 2008 (www.spinwatch.org)
 See European Commission Register of Interest representatives: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/transparency/regrin/welcome.do
See also: One step forward, two steps back? New Commission EU lobby register is weak and unbalanced, ALTER-EU press release, 23 June 2008: