Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Pseudo-celebs pull up a seat in EU chamber

Variety (USA) - 20 June 2004

John Hopewell, Alison James

Europe's fading stars have found a new venue to keep them in the public eye -- a seat at the European Union's powerful European Parliament.

The list of new MEPs, elected June 10-13, includes a motley crew of quasi-celebs.

Retro-right Brit Robert Kilroy-Silk once hosted an Oprah-ish BBC TV show until being fired for a newspaper article advancing anti-Arab opinions.

Debutant Italian MEP Lilli Gruber anchored RAI's "TG-1" news before ankling in April after denouncing the pubcaster's Berlusconi bias.

Strasbourg-bound Jean-Marie Cavada resigned recently as Radio France prexy, just months before his mandate came up for renewal.

Other new MEPs include Lasse Lehtinen, one-time host of Finnish TV's "The Millionaire," and NHL star Peter Stastny, voted in by his fellow Slovaks.

For cynics, Mickey Mouse elections demand Mickey Mouses, but the European Parliament wields real power. At least 55% of U.K. legislation now originates from the E.U.; the European Parliament can veto or amend 80% of that.

So seasoned politicos grate at the stardust.

"I have no problem with a sprinkling of celebrities, but the European Parliament requires a certain expertise which many don't have by training or inclination," says U.K. conservative MEP Charles Tannock.

Trouble is the electorate largely ignores the EP: the latest turnout was a record-low 45%. The celeb flotsam is used to attract more votes -- even at the cost of the EP's prestige.