Sunday, August 3, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Illustrations for Visegrad Insight magazine

Viktor Orban
Illustrations for Visegrad Insight magazine, Warsaw, for their coverage of the May 2014 elections:
Nigel Farage

Central Europe's prime ministers and presidents

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Superheroes: candidates for EU-2014


In 2014, the EU's top jobs will be divvied up between some top candidates with some really top implications for all of us. Here are some of the superheroes lining up to take Europe out of its financial crisis and its terminal decline. 
(For some altogether less serious-minded analysis, click here:

Helle Thorning-Schmidt as Nebula

Fredrik Reinfeldt as Antman; Enda Kenny as Dum Dum Duggan; Mario Monti as Flash Gordon; Jose Zapatero as Phantom

Dalia GrybauskaitÄ— as Asbestos Girl; Alexander Stubb as The Joker

Nicolas Sarkozy as Boomerang; Carl Bildt as Thor; Pascal Lamy as Patriot
Anders Fogh Rasmussen as Iron Fist; Christine Lagarde as Husk

David Cameron as Bug

Angela Merkel as King Pin; Francois Hollande as Captain America

Daniel Hannan as Hindsight Lad

Beppe Grillo as the Hypnohustler; Marine Le Pen as Revanche; Geert Wilders as Hairball

Godfrey Bloom as Frankenstein's Monster
Viktor Orban as Red Ghost

Nigel Farage as Bloke

Mario Draghi as Prof. X; Martin Schulz as Spiderman; Joseph Daul as Mojo

Vivienne Reding as Hawkeye

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Choose your own Commission President

Towards the end of 2014, the EU gets a new Commission president. The European Parliament has demanded that he or she should be chosen from a pool of candidates standing in this May's EU-wide elections. On this principle, the frontrunners would be: Jose Bove (Green), Guy Verhofstadt (Liberal), Jean-Claude Juncker (Christian Democrat), Martin Schulz (Socialist), Ska Keller (more Green), Alexis Tsipras (Left). Don't worry if you've never heard of them, because soon you won't hear about much else: most governments are dead-set against the principle. Herman Van Rompuy who chairs their summits has spoken out against the principle. A battle is brewing. Next month, we'll profile them and the rest of the fabulous array of characters vying to fill positions in Brussels.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

EU Presidents: Barroso - Sarkozy - Schulz - Van Rompuy

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.

With apologies to: Mighty Mouse; Tigger; the Great Dictator; Paul the Octopus

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Euro-Populists: Le Pen - Wilders - Soini - Farage

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.
With apologies to: the two-headed muppets; Struwwelpeter; Lordi

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Eminences Grises: Welle - Begg - Laitenberger - Juncker

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.

With apologies to: Freddie Mercury's moustache; My Preciouses; perpetual desktop motion; Bender

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

European Commissioners: Reding - Lewandowski - Piebalgs - Malmstrom

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. 

With apologies to: Snow White, Sleepy, Doc and Happy

Monday, January 6, 2014

Jokers: Berlusconi - Cowen - Oettinger - Brok

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.
With apologies to: bald clownssimple clowns; puppets; hulk

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Geo-strategists: Ashton - Gadaffi - Rumsfeld - Kissinger

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. 

With apologies to: the rest of the world; embarrassing friends; The Mekon; the Man-of-War jelly fish

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Euro Celebrities: Bildt - Dati - Stubb - O'Leary

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.

With apologies to: aristocratic diplomats; Imelda Marcos; Borat; The Beverley Hillbillies

Friday, January 3, 2014

Atheists and Jesuits: Duff - Tusk - Klaus - Grimsson

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.
With apologies to: Mole; Solidarnosc; Hell Boy; Aeolus