We’re starting our profile series of the candidates for EU Commission President with a look at José Bové and Ska Keller, both of whom were nominated by the European Green Party after having been chosen by citizens in an online open primary (which we covered elsewhere).
But hang on… Let’s take a step back. Why are the Greens putting forward two candidates for one job? Well, the Greens argue there should be gender balance across all the top spots in the EU, so they’ve decided to put forward one man and one woman for the role. Would they share an office? Merge signatures? Give press conferences by speaking together in creepy monophony? Exactly how these two candidates would divide a job originally designed for one person is being left strategically unanswered until a later date.
Who is José Bové?
Let’s start with José Bové, one half of the Green nomination.
He was born in Talence, France in 1953, and his career as a professional rabble-rouser has been nothing if not colourful. His first spell in prison was in 1976, when he spent three weeks in jail for the destruction of property at a French army base in protest at its expansion onto the Larzac plateau.
Despite the prison sentence, following his release Bové took part in a convoy of almost 100 tractors that occupied the base’s firing range. He was part of a growing commune of anarchists, pacifists and other malcontents squatting on land owned by the army, and their campaign against the French military managed to attract a lot of attention. Enough so that the army base was never expanded and Bové still has a cheese farm on the Larzac plateau.
The incident Bové is most famous for, however, is the trashing of a French branch of McDonald’s. He joined activists in dismantling the half-built McDonald’s restaurant in 1999; loading doors, walls and roof tiles into tractor carts and dumping them in front of the town hall in protest at US trade restrictions (including a 100 per cent surcharge on Roquefort cheese, which he himself farms). It might seem odd for an anti-globalization activist to be protesting against restrictive trade practices, but Bové argues he is not against globalization per se, but rather he wants to see a more democratically accountable and balanced global order.
In this sense, Bové isn’t so ideologically dissimilar to his co-candidate, Ska Keller. Both argue the current global system is unfair, and both would like to promote greater equality between rich and poor. Likewise, both campaign in favour of some aspects of globalization, including stronger rights for immigrants, whilst criticising the spread of technologies such as GMO crops (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Bové has received several prison sentences for destroying fields of GMOs).
Who is Ska Keller?
Franziska “Ska” Keller was born in 1981 and was elected to the European Parliament in 2009 at the age of 27. In many ways, Keller is the polar opposite of Bové. Whereas Bové is headstrong and a fiery advocate of direct action, Keller seems to prefer working within the rules through political dialogue and the ballot box. She was also apparently better suited to academic studies than Bové, having taken Islamic Studies, Turkology and Jewish Studies at the Free University Berlin as well as at the Sabanci Üniversitesi Istanbul (whereas Bové dropped out of university and joined a communal farm in the Pyrénées).
Keller grew up in Brandenburg, in the German town of Guben on the border with Poland. Before becoming an MEP, she was a board member for the German Young Greens, spokesperson and campaign coordinator for the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) and a spokesperson for the B90/The Greens in Brandenburg. Unlike Bové, she has not (yet) been imprisoned for “moral crimes” nor has she been refused an entry visa by the US. However, she also doesn’t have anything approaching Bové’s renown (or cult of fame) and she will have to work hard if she wants to build a Europe-wide public profile and not end up overshadowed by her walrus-moustached running mate.
Keller is also likely to be the youngest candidate and also the only woman taking part in the race. As she argued during the live online hangout we covered earlier, she’s not just “another old, white man”. It remains to be seen, however, if she will be able to “balance” the European Greens’ nomination by joining Bové’s radical green brand of politics with a more moderate voice. Whether she ends up as Commission Co-President or not, this nomination potentially gives her a platform to put forward her vision for Europe.
If you like the sound of José Bové and Ska Keller, you can vote for the Greens in our Debating Europe Vote 2014. If not, stay tuned as we’ll be publishing profiles of their rival candidates over the coming weeks.