Eclectic mix makes up new European Parliament

AP News
Posted: May 27, 2014 11:54 AM
Eclectic mix makes up new European Parliament

A Dane who lives in an amusement park. A Gypsy who vows to ban short-distance air travel. A Pole who wants to turn the European Parliament into a brothel.

Europe has elected 751 people to five-year terms as members of European Parliament, or MEPs. The vast majority of the seats were won by traditional parties, but the election also saw an eclectic group of outsiders win seats. Here are some of their stories:



Germany's Die Partei — The Party — pledges to do away with daylight savings time ("for an extra hour of sleep"), build a wall around Switzerland ("because they've earned it"), and have a well-known German television presenter host child-porn videos ("so that nobody will watch them anymore.")

Still, leader Martin Sonneborn says: "I don't think we're the craziest in European Parliament."

Die Partei — whose name is an acronym for "Party for Work, Rule-of-Law, Protection of Animals, Advancement of Elites and Grassroots-Democratic-Initiative" — was founded by editors of the satirical magazine Titanic. It grabbed one parliamentary seat with 0.6 percent of Germany's vote.

Sonneborn said the party intends to rotate 60 representatives through the seat so they will each receive a month's salary and "transitional pay" once they leave. The Parliament has already said the plan isn't allowed under its rules.

"We'll milk the EU like a small south European country," he said.

Sonnenborn, as his party's first MEP, knows he bears a grave responsibility.

"I'm going to use the next four weeks to intensively prepare for my resignation," he said.



Many candidates triumphed in the European elections by plugging an anti-EU line, but few had proposals quite as radical as Pole Janusz Korwin-Mikke's. He wants to turn the parliament building into a brothel as a sign of his contempt.

Korwin-Mikke's "New Right Wing" party won 7 percent of the vote in Poland, securing four seats in the Parliament, with a promise to destroy the European Union by destroying its regulations.

During his campaign, Korwin-Mikke called politicians in Brussels "thieves" and vowed to "eradicate" every manifestation of EU's existence, calling it "pink rot."

Korwin-Mikke is also a master Bridge player who wrote a popular book on the game.

After winning a seat, he pledged he would "fight to make Europe more normal."



When the Danish People's Party MEP Morten Messerschmidt isn't in Brussels, he lives in a Copenhagen amusement park.

His girlfriend, Dot Wessmann, works there as a cabaret singer and her family own many of the game booths. The 33-year-old Dane with a penchant for French wines frequently helps with chores at the Bakken amusement park, including hosing down rides and preparing bumper cars. The couple, who live in a wooden home, recorded a CD of Christmas carols in 2008.

Messerschmidt is taking one of the four seats in European Parliament won by the Euro-skeptic Danish People's Party, known for its anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Messerschmidt has often found himself at the center of controversy.

In 2002, Messerschmidt was convicted of inciting racial hatred over an ad that read: "Mass rape, gross violence, insecurity, forced marriages, oppression of women, gang crime. This is what a multi-ethnic society offers us."

In 2007, Messerschmidt, was accused of praising Adolf Hitler and singing Nazi songs publicly. He admitted being drunk at lunch with Danish lawmakers and celebrities, but was acquitted two years later, and the newspaper that carried the allegation was fined.



Bulgarian-born Kostadinka Kuneva worked as a cleaner after moving to Greece to find work. Kuneva, who studied history at university, became an outspoken labor organizer and was attacked with acid outside her Athens home in 2008, suffering life-threatening injuries.

She continued to campaign against labor abuses during her harrowing recovery and multiple surgeries in Greece and France. She was elected to the European Parliament with the left-wing Syriza party — which triumphed in austerity-battered Greece with 27 percent of the vote. The 50-year-old Kunveva, whose face was disfigured in the attack, campaigned in dark glasses and still speaks with difficulty.

She has promised take her campaign to Europe and seek EU-wide restrictions on the sale of acid.



German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it "horrifies" him that the far-Right National Democratic Party, known by initials NPD, won one of Germany's seats in European Parliament for the first time, with 1 percent of the vote.

The far-right party has long attracted neo-Nazis with its anti-immigrant, nationalist platforms, though it officially denies modeling itself on the Nazi party.

New MEP Udo Voigt once said that even though Hitler committed "great crimes" he also "achieved great things."

Voigt was pictured on a motorcycle on the party's campaign poster carrying the slogan "step on the gas" — causing widespread offense because of the Nazis' use of gas chambers in the murder of 6 million Jews. Voigt defended it, saying "you have to stop worrying about things from the past."

Another NPD poster pictured immigrants on a flying carpet with the caption: "Have a nice flight home."



Pablo Iglesias, a bearded, pony-tailed political science professor, came from virtually nowhere to upend Spanish politics.

Iglesias' leftist Podemos — "We Can" — party stunned the political world by winning 5 seats, on 8 percent of the vote, despite forming only four months ago.

The 35-year-old Iglesias has promised that if elected to a national office he will lodge the homeless in empty apartments held by banks. He also proposes banning former ministers from holding executive jobs in big companies.

Iglesias, who prefers jeans and checkered shirt to a suit and tie, won fans across the country with his calm and determined performance on Spain's often strident television political chat shows.

Hailing from Madrid' working class neighborhood of Vallecas, Iglesias says Spain is "run by the butlers of the rich" — and that if King Juan Carlos wants to be head of state, he should run for election.



Swedish Gypsy Sorarya Post wants to bring a "feminist dimension" to everything that goes on in the European Parliament. But it's her party's environmental views that may be the most unique: It wants to ban short distance air travel and imports of mineral water across national boundaries to cut down on heat-trapping emissions.

Her Feminist Initiative Pary — which counts her as its only MEP — apparently links climate change to male behavior. It wants to create a program "to re-educate men so that they change their consumption and transport patterns to benefit the climate and sustainable development."

Post, who is also an avid campaigner for Roma rights, sees feminism as a counterweight to the far-right parties that made strong gains in the European Parliament election.

"If you want to stick to the founding idea of the European Union as a peaceful, cooperative union, you have to introduce the feminist dimension in light of the forces that are now coming in," Post told The Associated Press.


Associated Press Writers Ciaran Giles in Madrid, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels, Karl Ritter in Stockholm and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report. Rising reported from Berlin