From a television chef and standup comic to a man in jail and a former prime minister famed for raunchy mansion parties, the new European Parliament features no shortage of less-than-run-of-the-mill lobby fodder.
It’s not yet certain who will take every one of the 751 seats, but counts in 28 countries have revealed some colourful resumes.
One who might not make it to the swearing-in is Spanish politician Oriol Junqueras. He’s sitting in a Spanish jail, on trial with other Catalan former regional officials for sedition after helping organize an independence referendum in 2017 that angered Madrid.
No such constraints should hold back Silvio Berlusconi, the 82-year-old media tycoon and four-time Italian prime minister. He has survived a string of charges ranging from fraud to hiring an underage prostitute for sex-fuelled “bunga bunga” parties at his villa.
After emergency bowel surgery last month, Berlusconi should take up his seat for his centre-right Forza Italia party on July 2 in the Strasbourg, France, where —16 years ago to the day — he infamously likened a German member of the European Parliament (MEP) to a Nazi camp guard.
Berlusconi is not the only ex-prime minister in the new intake.
Poland’s Beata Szydlo is perhaps best known in Brussels for vainly trying to block the reappointment of her own countryman, Donald Tusk, as EU summit chairman — a rare example of a government putting hometown hatreds ahead of getting one of its own nationals into a plum seat in the European institutions.
While Szydlo’s socially conservative, euroskeptic ruling party improved its score, liberals hailed the election of Robert Biedron, who will stand out among Polish MEPs — though not among the legislative body as a whole — for being openly gay.
Standing out for his youth will be the lead candidate for France’s far-right National Rally party. At just 23, Jordan Bardella is a full 18 years younger than the otherwise youthful President Emmanuel Macron, whose party Bardella pushed back to second place. Bardella is two years too young to run for office in his family’s native Italy.
Among novelties in the chamber, Niyazi Kizilyurek will be the first MEP from Cyprus’s Turkish community.
And if the Catalan separatist Junqueras’s troubles with the law is bound up with his political activity, other MEPs face more personal troubles with the forces of justice.
Peter Lundgren’s hopes of returning for the far-right Sweden Democrats have been hit by a sexual harassment investigation after he admitted to acting drunk toward a party colleague.
That has not stopped Teuvo Hakkarainen. Fined this year for drunkenly grabbing and kissing a fellow member of the Finnish parliament, he heads for the EU assembly bearing a message that the global women’s #MeToo movement is “a load of baloney.”
Television stars galore
Some new arrivals made names before politics: Germany’s satire party, which calls itself The Party, adds a second comedian to its existing roster of one MEP; Austria’s Greens are sending Sarah Wiener, who is more famous across German-speaking Europe as a gourmet television chef.
Ann Widdecombe is no stranger to television celebrity either.
She was once a British Conservative minister and campaigner for Catholic religious morality and against some gay rights. In retirement, she found fame on a ballroom dancing show and Celebrity Big Brother, losing that contest last year to a drag queen.
Widdecombe, 71, is among 29 MEPs who will sit — for a few months at least, until Britain carries out its vexed plan to leave the EU — for the new Brexit Party of Nigel Farage, a vocal critic of, and fixture in, the EU Parliament since 1999.
Less enamoured of video, probably, is Heinz-Christian Strache, who is set to be another new entrant.
He was Austria’s vice-chancellor until days ago, when a covert film of him offering favours to a supposed Russian oligarch’s niece went online. Strache is in line for one of his far-right Freedom Party’s seats, according to local media.