The European Union’s only superhero Captain Europe shares his thoughts on Grexit, Brexit and the refugee crisis. In an exclusive interview with euractiv.com, he also gives us a glimpse of the mysterious man behind the mask…
Captain Europe is a mild-mannered civil servant by day, and a superhero at weekends – and at other times on request.
I’m here today with a man who needs no introduction. Having said that, I’m going to introduce him anyway. It’s my great pleasure – Captain Europe, how are you?
I’m very well thanks. I’d even say super.
It’s good to see, Captain, that you’re not above having the odd beer.
Well, indeed. If Farage can do it, I can do it.
Now look, I’m going to cut straight to the chase with perhaps the most obvious question. Why, exactly, are you dressed like that?
Well, the answer to that is very prosaic and at the same time a bit complex. I was at a fancy dress party for carnival many years ago, not dressed like this, and saw various people dressed as Superman and Spiderman and Batman. And I thought, hang on, why are we importing these American superheros when we’re here in the capital of Europe? So, I kind of came up with the idea of a European superhero and then took on the persona. And the persona has kind of taken on a life of its own and it’s been tremendous fun.
Well it’s fair to say that, at the moment, Europe is facing some of the biggest crises it has in it’s history – at least in the European Union’s history. And of course, we can’t mention those crises without mentioning Greece. Hasn’t the European Union blotted its copy book?
I suppose, in a sense, it has. At least the political level has. Not so much from recent events, from decisions that were taken a few years ago to allow Greece to join the single currency when, clearly, it wasn’t ready to do so. If we’re honest, most of the people who took those decisions knew that it wasn’t ready and I think some pretty harsh lessons have been learned about what happens when you do things for the sake of political expediency.
It almost felt like it didn’t become a European Union issue. It was almost more of a Eurogroup issue.
In a sense, it was a Eurogroup issue. It was also an issue between Greece and its creditors. Greece had borrowed irresponsibly. The creditors had lent irresponsibly. And it was left up to the politicians and to the taxpayers of various countries to try and pick up the pieces of that irresponsibility.
And of course, Captain, we’ve now moved from one crisis to another. We’re now on the migration crisis. Again, a real challenge for the EU.
It is a real challenge for the EU and for its member states, on a number of levels. In a sense, we are victims of our own success. Europe is perceived as a very attractive place to come and live and that is something that I think we should be proud of. Unfortunately, the side effect is that a great many people want to come and live here. And we need to look at ways of how we manage that.
Captain, what about Brexit?
Well, in a sense, that is a matter for the British people. I think that there is a bit of ambivalence in Britain about what they want. I think there’s a bit of ambivalence, if we’re honest, elsewhere in the European Union. There’s a level of exasperation, and probably some people are muttering privately that if the UK were to leave, then it would be a case of good riddance and let the rest of us get on with it. But I think that the United Kingdom is an important part of the European Union. There are an awful lot of myths about and an awful lot of fear which I think is regrettable. We are in the 21st century now, not the first half of the 20th. We need to get away from the politics of fear and the politics of xenophobia. And if you have legitimate concerns about the EU’s imperfections, which are many, then the way to address those is not to leave, but to get very firmly stuck in and put those imperfections right.
Captain, tell me about the man behind the mask.
Well, what do you want to know? I mean, I have a rather unexciting desk job somewhere behind the scenes somewhere in the European public service. I speak six languages to varying degrees. I’ve lived in Brussels for a little over ten years. What else do you want to know?
Well, do your employers know that you lead this double life?
Some do, some don’t. I recently moved jobs. My old employer certainly did. I don’t think my immediate boss does. The college, at least some members of it, seem to be big fans.
But, on a personal level, we’re talking about you leading a double life. Has that ever put any strains on relationships?
Well, not hugely. I prefer not to comment too much on my private life. Let’s just say, it has at times met certain amounts of disapproval in certain courses. But it’s a tolerant disapproval.
And, where do you keep your wallet?
In my utility belt, of course.
And finally, and I’m sorry to have to ask this, but have you ever worn the uniform in, shall we say … diplomatically … private moments?
Captain, thank you very much and cheers!