|Assad, Kim Jong-un, Ahmadinejad|
"Wack-a-mole of evil": illustration for EUobserver
|Jose-Manuel Barroso - Nicolas Sarkozy - Martin Schulz - Herman Van Rompuy|
"President of Europe" has a nice ring to it, inspiring historical personalities from Adolf to Tony. Aware perhaps of the dangers of this kind of unwanted leadership, the European Union likes to have at least four at any one time, all competing with each other. Right now, there is Jose-Manuel Barroso, chosen as Commission President because the French and Germans wanted someone with an opinion of their own, so to speak. There is the president of the European Parliament, the abrasive europhile Martin Schulz. And there is Herman Van Rompuy, who presides over the summits of national leaders. The low-key Van Rompuy reminds us of Paul the Octopus, the creature that successfully predicted the outcome of the matches in the 2010 World Cup: Herman may well be a shy and brilliant creature, or may just be pretending. Finally, there is the so-called rotating national president - the head of state or government of each member state presides over the EU for six months in turn. The tiggerish French President Sarkozy may have left the political stage in Paris now, but he is included here because he enjoyed the role so much that he managed to extend it by years. Go Sarko, go! No really, go.
|Jean-Marie Le Pen - Geert Wilders - Timo Soini - Nigel Farage|
Ah, those brave truth-tellers, Le Pen, Wilders, Soini and Farage. Le Pen is the founder of France's Front National; Farage is the leader of the UK Independence Party; Wilders, with his lovely blond mane of hair, is the founder of the Dutch Party for Freedom; Soini, strangely reminiscent of Nordic Europop favourites Lordi, is co-founder of the True Finns. The populists are clever people who bring out the worst in all of us.
|Klaus Welle - Iain Begg - Johannes Laitenberger - Jean-Claude Juncker|
In the popular imagination, Brussels is stuffed full of grey and faceless bureaucrats. Wrong. In reality the town has remarkably few. And that is precisely its problem. Nowhere else on the planet is there such a concentration of flamboyant, over-enthusiastic officials. If only they were grey and faceless, the EU might be a little less hyperactive. One such is Klaus Welle, head of the European Parliament's secretariat. He cut his teeth running election campaigns for the German Christian Democrats and runs the secretariat in the same methodically divisive spirit. He probably won't be winning any popularity polls, but then he doesn't have to. Laitenberger, as President Barroso's chief aid, is a German with a Portuguese background, a brain in a suit. As for Begg, he is an academic rather than a bureaucrat, but the Brit embodies much the same spirit and works on the EU's gold, in a spirit of greyness. Last up is the oblique Juncker. Juncker is the man who presides over the Eurogroup, the political muscle behind the Euro currency. He's from Luxembourg and he likes a drink.
|Viviane Reding - Janusz Lewandowski - Andris Piebalgs - Cecilia Malmstrom|
The European Commission, whose happy task it is to propose EU laws and make sure they are implemented, is steered by politicians from each of the 28 member states. These Commissioners must be sufficiently disliked at home for their government to want to exile them to Brussels, but sufficiently robust and patriotic to achieve national goals. Luxembourg's hyperactive Reding is the lady spends her time bullying the French. Lewandowski, the Pole given charge of the EU's budget gave his country a good settlement. Piebalgs, the cheerfully monochrome physicist from Latvia, has made little impact, but at least has not ruined anything. And Malmstrom, the Swedish former nurse, has thwarted Europe's most hawkish interior ministers as Commissioner for home affairs. Champagne all round then.
|Silvio Berlusconi - Brian Cowen - Gunther Oettinger - Elmar Brok|
Euro-politics is really Euro-pop - silly costumes, national stereotypes and heavily accented English. But underestimate these larger than life characters at your peril. Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian PM is still capable of launching. Brian Cowen, his Irish counterpart, retained power despite the critical situation in his country and his own drunken behaviour. And Oettinger, the EU Commissioner for energy, who was shunted off to Europe by Chancellor Merkel in one of her regular political clear-outs, has been a quietly effective lobbyist for German interests. But the connoisseur's joker has to be Elmar Brok. This provincial German, with his gratuitous moustache, has defined the EU's and Germany's policies for years. The joke's on you, Europe.
|Catherine Ashton - Muammar Gaddafi - Donald Rumsfeld - Henry Kissinger|
The British, in their quiet way, have long suggested that European states should aspire to a more coherent foreign policy. They have had some vocal supporters along the way - Kissinger, the slippery US war-monger, and Donald Rumsfeld for instance. Moreover, a long line of international problems, from the Kosovo crisis to Libya, has reinforced the British point. Now, with the rise of China and the onset of global multipolarity, their argument seems to have caught on. "Speaking with one voice" on international affairs has become something of a mantra. Best of all, the UK now has a Brit, Catherine Ashton, as EU Commissioner for external relations, the closest thing the EU has to a foreign minister. A dream come true for London? Err, well no. In a triumph for "Europeanisation", the British are now the EU's most provincial and inward-looking nation. Ashton, meanwhile, has become the bloc's punchbag.
|Carl Bildt - Rachida Dati - Alexander Stubb - Michael O'Leary|
The EU's celebrity politicians offer glorious technicolour examples of EU technocracy. Rachida Dati was the one-woman soap opera of French Euro-politics. President Sarkozy's spokeswoman, she was appointed to the French government before becoming too much to handle and being packed off to a seat in the European Parliament. Meanwhile, Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, and Alexander Stubb, the Europe minister from Finland, take the Nordic reputation for openness just a little too far. (Do just take a look at Stubb's website, and his haunting lycra photos.) As for O'Leary, he's the Ryanair man, so not really a politician. But he displays a fine line in under-dog, man-of-the-people charm coupled with an ability to get rich from EU rules.
|Andrew Duff - Donald Tusk - Vaclav Klaus - Olafur Grimsson|
European integration has its believers and unbelievers. Andrew Duff is the porky British MEP who never misses an opportunity for a bit of pro-European sermonising. In the opposite pulpit is Olafur Grimsson, the long-serving Icelandic President and strict euro-aetheist. Polish PM Donald Tusk is on Duff's side and evangelises for the EU, and the promise of a cosy Brussels sinecure. And former Czech President Vaclav Klaus is with Grimsson, but like all Czechs enjoys playing the enfant terrible. Seeing this lot fight it out, is a little like watching Richard Dawkins debate the Archbishop of Canterbury. Each side earnestly believes that its ideas actually matter.