Monday

26th Jun 2017

Focus

German political humour sends up EU

One of the most frequent stereotypes about Germans is that they lack humour. Their politicians even more so. And politicians speaking about the EU are considered in a class of their own in terms of tedium.

But not for Martin Sonneborn, the former editor-in-chief of Titanic, a political satire magazine. He is top of the list for the EU elections on behalf of the German satire party "Die Partei" (The Party). Following the recent German constitutional court decision to scrap the minimum threshold for the European Parliament elections, Sonneborn has a shot at becoming MEP.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The German government hopes to increase turnout in the EU elections (Photo: European Commission)

"There are enough madmen who are in favour of Europe and enough lunatics who are against it. So we tailored our slogan to the 70 percent of Germans for whom the EU elections are completely irrelevant: 'Yes to Europe, No to Europe: Die Partei'," Sonneborn told this website.

Sonneborn says it is "realistic" for Die Partei to get around 0.6 percent of the German vote needed to send an MEP to Brussels.

"The German constitutional court showed with its verdict that it considers the EP as something of a joke parliament. And the political arm of the satire magazine Titanic belongs there, for sure," the satirist said.

Asked what he will stand for if elected, Sonneborn said: "For myself. For fun in Europe. For even more absurd regulations."

Die Partei plans to send a different person each month to be an MEP, as Sonneborn would resign after a month and so would his successors, until everyone of the 59 party members on the EP list get to have a taste of Brussels and Strasbourg.

A signature 'policy' of Die Partei is the re-creation of the Berlin wall as well as other walls in and around Germany. Sonneborn says that Russia's actions in Ukraine are "finally restoring a division in Europe" and that his party has the best concept for it: "Walls. The need for walls will increase tremendously."

Other political parties, notably the Pirate Party, are also using humour in their outdoor campaigns. The Pirates show the Manneken Pis, Brussels' iconic peeing boy statue, with the slogan "I can't if somebody is watching" – a reference to the US spying on Europeans.

A go-to-vote campaign sponsored by the EU commission and the German government also seeks to be funny: it shows a bent cucumber saying "Nobody is perfect – you should be picky only about your political choice."

Political humour in advertising

German humour is there "but it's different," says Johannes Krempl, who owns Berlin advertising agency Glow. His agency is famous for its cheeky political news-related ads for a local lingerie brand. "Dear USA, no wonder you want to fuck the EU" is one of them, showing a lingerie model.

The message is a reference to the tape leaked by the Russian secret services in which a top US diplomat, Victoria Nuland, was complaining to the US ambassador in Ukraine about the slow EU reaction to Russia's actions. At one point, she says "Fuck the EU", to which the ambassador replies "No, exactly."

As for German humour, which may be "not so sarcastic as British legendary humour, but more direct and flattering," Krempl says it has something to do with Germany's federal structure.

"The UK and France have great ads, but they all target the audience in the big capital. In Germany's federal structure the target is in smaller towns, where the audience may not be as refined and have different standards than in London or Paris. So the humour peaks are also lower," Krempl explains.

Wooden language

German novelist and satirical author Friedrich Christian Delius, who lives in Berlin following several years spent in Rome, also disagrees that Germans have no humour.

"I think Berliners are much more easy-going and funny than people in Rome, for instance. Romans have become more morose," he told this website.

Delius, who mocked both German political discourse as well as 'EU speak' in his satires published in the 1960s and 1970s, says it is not Europe as such that is boring.

Rather it is politicians and bureaucrats adopting a certain way of speaking because they "don't want to deal with any criticism".

"So they use standard sentences, they show no enthusiasm, even their own criticism, sometimes justified, lacks originality. You get the impression that they have not thought it through with their own minds, but rather that 20 people sifted through it to make it as weak as possible," he said.

He gave the example of the EU constitution that got rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands.

"I don't know who was responsible for it, how many hundred people worked on it – but just from the point of view of the language used: it was way too long. And that's already a mistake. The shorter a treaty is, the better. You don't have to put everything in there."

The fact that none of the current EU leaders is a good orator or has any literary education is also contributing to the rising euroscepticism, the writer says.

"Europe is based on culture, not just geography. European novels were always interconnected. The big writers from different countries were always in touch, since the Middle Ages. This was what education meant. If we don't see that culture, literature is the basis for our society, then we get these fools and imbeciles who write a Constitution that nobody will ever read or understand."

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

Cameron mends ties with Juncker

British PM Cameron has reached out to Juncker, after having failed to prevent his nomination as European Commission chief.

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

News in Brief

  1. Berlusconi's party sees comeback in Italian local votes
  2. Low turnout in Albanian election set to mandate EU future
  3. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  4. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  5. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  6. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  7. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  8. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Cohesion policy for a stronger Europe
  2. Cheap meat is a bigger problem for climate and health
  3. Ministers to reject minimum parking spaces for electric cars
  4. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  5. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  6. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  7. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  8. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement