Captain Europe, mild mannered civil servant by day and superhero… well, mostly at weekends and at other times on request.
- Captain, when and where were you born?
I was born somewhere in northern Europe shortly after my birthplace joined the European Economic Community.
- How many people know your real identity?
I think there are about 20 people who know my secret identity – and a few more who know both me and my alter ego but haven’t yet made the link.
- What does Captain Europe fight for?
I fight for the usual superhero causes: truth and justice. In an EU context, that means a number of things. Truth can mean busting the many myths about the EU, or teasing and provoking the powerful to keep them honest. It can mean informing citizens about the rights and benefits they enjoy thanks to the EU. Justice can mean standing up for consumers against powerful corporations (something the EU does rather well), or stimulating police cooperation to fight serious and organised crime, or defending intergenerational justice by protecting the environment. All these things are policies the EU covers; I merely symbolise, and sometimes stimulate, the EU’s action in these areas.
- When was the first time you wore your super-hero suit?
I first wore my superhero suit in 2006, having been inspired by people dressed as other superheroes at a carnival party I had attended that year. I first wore it in public in 2008 at the open days for the EU institutions. I repeated that performance for the four subsequent years; in 2012 pictures of me went a bit viral, since when I keep getting invited to things. The suit itself has been improved and developed over time.
- Who are your enemies?
My enemies are Europe’s enemies within: nationalism, extremism and pessimism
- Why does Europe need a hero?
Europe needs a hero to fight against the above three enemies. We already have a European flag and anthem; why not a European superhero? After all, the Americans, the Japanese and others have them. If I can show people that Europe is on their side, and make them smile, I will have gone a long way to conquering those three enemies.
- Who is your favourite Commissioner? And MEP?
With no disrespect to the other Commissioners, my favourites are Cecilia Malmström, who has a great sense of fun, and Neelie Kroes, a tireless champion of consumer rights and the digital economy. I have not met either of them, but I have met Androulla Vassiliou. I have met a number of MEPs, including Jo Leinen, Isabelle Durant, Mary Honeyball and Catherine Bearder, but wouldn’t like to say which was my favourite.
- Who will you vote for in the next European elections?
As a superhero, I cannot endorse any political party. I would invite voters to follow my lead in examining the voting and attendance records of MEPs in this parliament and drawing their own conclusions. I will say that we need MEPs who work hard and are committed to representing their constituents and making the EU better, not people who come in, claim their expenses, make a few grandstanding speeches and then go to the pub without actually achieving anything.
- How much still needs to be done to get Europe out of the economic and political crisis?
Europe’s economy seems to be turning the corner at last. I think what we ultimately need to resolve the crisis is more honesty: people, especially rich people, paying the taxes they should rather than fiddling them; politicians telling voters about the tough choices that need to be made if we are to live within our means, whether environmentally or financially; and voters who are prepared to be honest with themselves and face up to those realities rather then voting for lying populists who just tell them what they want to hear. That will put us on the path to sustainable and sustained recovery, and also restore trust in our institutions – which brings us back to my answer to the third question: truth.