Some slightly more different and exciting faces could soon be joining the ranks of MEPs (Photo: European Parliament)


Some unusual candidates running to become MEPs in June

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Some slightly more different and exciting faces could soon be joining the ranks of MEPs (Photo: European Parliament)

European elections are often portrayed as dry, mostly male, politicians in blue or black suits wanting to become MEPs. But extraordinary people like activists, writers and ex-athletes are also running this June to become members of the next European Parliament.

Here are some of them:

Carola Rackete, environmental and refugees activist, Germany. Rackete is running for the leftwing party Die Linke as a non-party member. She hit the headlines in 2019 when she was the captain of an NGO rescue boat and was arrested for helping refugees in the Mediterranean. To bring the refugees to land after weeks of waiting, Rackete had docked in the harbour of Lampedusa without permission. An Italian court later ruled that she should have never been arrested. 

Before, she worked on ships going on expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica and got involved in nature preservation and environment politics.

The 35-year-old wants to become an MEP because "within the opaque political environment in Brussels, corporations with their thousands of lobbyists have an easy game. I want to enter the European Parliament to build counterpower and ensure transparency", she told EUobserver.

Amine Kessaci, activist against drug trafficking in Marseille, France. Kessaci is running for the French Green party Les Ecologistes. The 20-year-old activist grew up in a poor neighbourhood in Marseille where many young people end up working for drug smugglers and become victims of shootings. Kessaci's brother was shot in 2020 in one of the fights between drug gangs. Now, the law student supports other families who have lost a family member in this gangland warfare. With the NGO "Conscience" that he created, Kessaci supports them by providing psychological help and finding housing.

Kessaci wants to become an MEP "to support local initiatives and showcase them in the European Parliament, to give everyone the chance to play a part in their own destiny."

Nina Carberry, former jockey, Ireland. Carberry is running for the Irish conservative Fine Gael which is part of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament.

The 39-year-old was a successful jump jockey in Ireland and stayed in the saddle for almost 17 years. In 2018, she ended her horse-riding career and is now breeding horses. In the Irish version of Dancing With The Stars in 2022, she and her professional dancer partner ended up winning the competition.

She wants to become an MEP because "we need a strong voice in Europe" to protect the Common Agriculture Policy, she said.

Sibylle Berg, author and novelist, Germany. Running for the satirical party Die PARTEI (non-attached members) in Germany. Berg's books and theatre plays about love, Western societies and capitalism have been translated into more than 30 languages. The author, who identifies as non-binary, was born in the German Democratic Republic but left the country before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The 61-year-old now lives in Switzerland, regularly putting on plays there as well as in Germany. In the European Parliament, Berg wants in particular to fight against digital surveillance.

The novelist wants to become an MEP because "hardly anyone reads books anymore. And if you only somehow fritter away your content with books to 100,000 people, I think you might be able to achieve more in a political function or with the attention that stuff that comes out of parliament gets", Berg told German local broadcaster "Sachsen Fernsehen".

Jana Degrott, local councillor, Luxembourg. Running for the liberal party Demokratesch Partei which is part of Renew Europe in the European Parliament.

Degrott co-founded the initiative "We Belong" to strengthen young European women of colour to get into leadership positions. Internationally, Degrott is involved at the intersection of empowerment of women of colour, politics and leadership. She was selected in 2022 for the Obama Foundation leaders programme, which connects future leaders. 

The 28-year-old has been a local councillor in her small hometown Steinsel since 2018. In October last year, she was also a candidate for the Luxembourg's Parliament.

She wants to become an MEP "because I believe that the more representative our democracies are, the greater the trust people have in them. I aim to represent underserved voices in the halls of power and fight for inclusion for everyone, regardless of their background or disabilities", she told EU Observer.

Jesmond Bonello, former trade unionist, Malta. Running for the Partit Laburista (Labour Party) which belongs to the S&D Group in the European Parliament.

Bonello has been a union leader for 20 years. He worked in different roles in the union UĦM and was its president for nine years. Now, he is working at the Foundation for Social Welfare Services (FSWS), an institution in Malta that offers support around domestic violence, the empowerment of youth and families. But this is the first time he is a candidate for a political position.

Bonello wants to become an MEP because "While Malta has seen positive changes at the EU level in recent years, I believe there’s more to be done, especially for the common Maltese workers, pensioners, and their families“, he told online magazine Lovin’ Malta.

Monica lagăr, former Olympics athlete in the high jump, Romania. Lagăr is running for the far-right Union of Romanians (AUR), which is scoring highly in the polls in the south-eastern EU member state. Founded in 2019, they are not yet in the European Parliament. Iagăr won the gold medal at the European Championships in 1998 and took part in the Olympic Games in 2000 and 2004. According to her party, she was the president of the sports club CS Dinamo. The 51-year-old  recently announced that she will also run for mayor in one district of the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Lagăr wants to become an MEP because "The family is made up of a man and a woman and that is how it should remain and that is the right we will fight for in the European Parliament", she told Romanian rightwing populist blog

Author Bio

Marion Bergermann is a Brussels-based journalist covering EU politics.