No. 5. Rachida Dati despite herself
If there is one thing of which we can be certain, it’s that Rachida Dati was trying to get out of being sentenced to a life of boredom in Brussels. Nicolas Sarkozy had other plans however and made her the number 2 candidate on the Ile de France ‘UMP’ list for the 2009 European elections. A real punishment ;
over the last 18 months she has had to endure regular visits to a city which is a little too ‘bling bling’ for her tastes. And this is exactly what has earned her the title of the most well-know French MEP ; in the first months of her mandate, she created a ‘buzz’ by not concealing, in a rather comical fashion, her dismay at a report on M6 which made its way around the European media. Visible in the public eye, she created a buzz on an even greater scale 10 months later with a verbal slip that is not worth mentioning again.
The former Ministry of Justice, with her slight penchant for the limelight, is used to her private life and family troubles being splashed across magazines and embodies better than anyone the disinterest of national policies for a position that isn’t given the time of day under the radar.
This exposure doesn’t stop her from being able to laugh at herself. Rachida Dati’s webpage welcomes you a personal message that cheekily asks “Who said Europe was boring ? Me, never !”
Anyway, she doesn’t set herself apart with huge amounts of work : no interventions, no written declarations in 18 months, barely 3 motions signed and no reports drafted. Well, she has made 13 interventions in plenary sessions, but let’s not be under any misapprehensions ; the fact that these interventions are on film must soften this blow for her.
All the same, she has had some bad luck as well. We learn from her Facebook page that she has missed her connection from Istanbul to Bakou, where she was headed to act as an international observer for the elections.
Nº4 : Licia Ronzulli, Not without her daughter
The probably most pleasant buzz of the year in the European Parliament went by the name of Victoria (Vittoria in Italian). This is the name of the daughter of the Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli, who landed in Strasbourg for a plenary session
- Licia Ronzulli and Vittoria during the plenary session in Strasbourg on 21st September 2010
Source : Licia Ronzulli’s official website
with her 44 day old baby as a symbolic act to draw attention to the female struggle to reconcile the family and professional lives. That was 20 October 2010, the same day that Parliament voted for the extension of maternity leave to 20 weeks.
This was a victory for women’s rights but also for political marketing because even if the media and colleagues of Licia Ronzulli warmly applauded this intelligent and charming parliamentarian from Berlusconi’s party, her actions also concealed the fact that the majority of the European People’s Party – her political group- had voted against the measure, arguing it would have a negative impact on national public spending.
Her wish to sensitise people to the difficulty of the female work/life balance will have largely convinced the international media but it will not have changed her colleagues’ position.
Nevertheless, Licia Ronzulli probably still deserves the prize for the best publicity stunt in the European Parliament as it was a genuinely positive message (Rachida Dati should have thought of that…). Although it wasn’t necessarily original, as the Danish MEP Hanne Dahl pulled the same stunt in March 2009, not wanting to choose between voting and looking after her son. Now we just need a daddy MEP to do the same.
No. 3. Nigel Farage, the most hated man in the European Parliament
When Nigel Farage gets hold of the microphone the whole world trembles. Why ? Quite simply because this British toff doesn’t stop himself from expressing his euroscepticism with a finesse and passion that knows no limit.
Nigel Farage, with a fondness for public speaking that is inversely proportionate to his contribution to European legislation, has become, since his election in 1999, the greatest threat to the boredom that can often set in to the European Parliamentary forums. No-one, not even Daniel Cohn Bendit, can master the art of oratory like this nationalist when faced with the European bureaucrats.
The head of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy parliamentary group (EFD) is the man who wears pink ties in the face of the Brussels grey, the actor whose YouTube videos can be watched by at least 15 000 people in no time at all.
This is because Farage doesn’t hesistate to go as far as possible with his insults. His centre-stage insults to the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, whose charisma he compared to that of a ‘wet mop’, cost 3000 euros in the form of a fine from the European Parliament. The President of the Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, often has to call him to order. Farage told the press that the ‘headmaster’ never appreciate when he ordered gin and tonic when he was offered tea.
In his words, Van Rompuy became “Rompy Pompy” (a slang term for a sexual game) ; making links between the socialist Martin Schulz and Nazism ; and stating the EU would therefore become a ultranationalist dictatorship. His speeches, which continuously highlight the democratic gaps of the European Union, are among the most famous in Brussels and Strasbourg, from both the right and left MEPs. All courts need a jester ; it is just a shame that this one has become a little less visible since his plane accident last May. It’s an irony of sorts, the wings of his small air craft got caught in a UKIP banner in the run up to the last British elections. Here is a man who certainly pays for his ideas.
No. 2. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the king of buzz
Daniel Cohn-Bendit could have been crowned number one in this list if the timing hadn’t become so worrying in certain respects. All the same, he
deserves, without doubt, to take his place on the podium of prominent MEPs. Here is someone who, since May 1968, masters the art of staging.
Never one to shy away from the limelight, Mr Cohn-Bendit has never concealed his wish to become President of the European Parliament. He would also like to see himself leader of the European left who are always looking for a popular figurehead but are never able to agree on one.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t take his energy away from defending European causes to which he is strongly attached. Each Parliamentary session or suchlike is an opportunity for a media rant for Daniel Cohn Bendit, who knows like no other how to attract the attention of journalists in need of high flown stories. Famous for shouting out “Shut up” in a plenary session to the leader of the socialists Martin Schulz – who would have stolen the Parliamentary Presidency from him-, and having denounced the ‘coalition of hypocrites’ around Barroso, the threats and the blackmail towards Greece and the over conciliatory attitude of France towards China, is a man who uses the ‘tu’ form for his adversaries in public and also the man who has given a stage to French ecologists and breathed air into the life of ‘eco’ issues across the continent.
His ultimate exploit ? He can soon be seen on the TV channel Canal+, where he is preparing to commentate each week on the League 1 football championship as a sports consultant. Another guarantee that he will stay in the limelight.
No. 1. Mario Borghezio, the extraterrestrial hooligan
Former under secretary for Justice from the ‘Lega Nord’, the party of relentless xenophobes on which Berlusconi’s government relied before suffering their wrath, MEP Mario Borghezio adopted a ‘Leitmotiv’ several months ago, filled with conspiracy theories.
In June 2010, very inspired, he requested the creation of a European Commission aimed at force Member States to declassify their documents on the UFOs. He claimed that science and society would stand to gain from knowing the governments’ secrets on this subject. Mario Borghezio has also joined the fight of those who denounce Club Bilderberg as being one of the most dangerous secret enemies to humanity. According to him, this informal focus group “was not born in 1954 but in the Middle Ages and was responsible for the introduction of the black death to Europe”. Oh my.
Make no mistake however. Behind these crazy views that can’t help but almost bring a smile to your face, lies a genuine political hooligan. Mario Borghezio is a violent one, truly. We have seen the MEP order the fumigation of trains used by black people or those of African origin in order to ‘disinfect’ them. We have also seen him lead herds of swine onto land to make them defecate and urinate in order to prevent the construction of mosques, or even burn homeless shelters of foreign origin.
It is well known that he doesn’t hesitate, being a right wing politician, to change his tack according to his audience. “We are open, friendly and welcoming to Islam” he tells journalists. But at gatherings of his party’s activists he says “Do not be fooled by a gang of miscreant Muslim shit !”
This individual, who compares Basque ETA terrorists to heroes of freedom and states that it is legitimate to detonate bombs to achieve the goals of independence, certainly has the most anti-democratic political standpoints in the European Parliament.
He is perhaps not the most prominent MEP, but he’s the one we have to keep an eye on the most. He doesn’t represent a unique phenomenon but perhaps unfortunately represents the tendency towards isolationism that currently affects governments across Europe.