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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Astronauts and models join Euro-race
By Richard Allen Greene
BBC News Online

Estonian model Carmen Kass
Kass could see a huge drop in income if she wins

Do you know who your MEPs are? Would you recognise them in a shop or on a train?

Even euro-enthusiasts admit that the European Parliament is not necessarily the place to become a household name - but this year's crop of candidates might help to change that.

They include Nobel Prize winners, a pair of astronauts, Olympic medallists, a handful of television presenters and a former adult entertainment star.

One candidate who will not need to depend on her MEP expense account is supermodel Carmen Kass, a frequent magazine cover girl who has called herself Estonia's richest woman.

Everything I've got, I've got from Estonia - I want to give something back to Estonia
Supermodel MEP candidate
Carmen Kass
The 25-year-old supermodel is standing for the Baltic nation's governing conservative Res Publica party despite having no political experience.

"I'm entering politics because, for the past 10 years, I've got a lot from the world," she told the Associated Press news agency.

"And everything I've got, I've got from Estonia. I want to give something back to Estonia," she said.

A Res Publica spokeswoman said Ms Kass had "lots of good ideas".

But she has reportedly been placed fairly low on her party's list, making it unclear whether or not she will get a seat.

Top of the list

Former porn star Dolly Buster, on the other hand, tops her party list in the Czech Republic.

Former porn star Dolly Buster
Dolly Buster claims her party has a great deal of support
Nora Baumbergova - her real name - is standing for a party called the Independent Initiative, formerly known as the Independent Erotic Initiative.

She claims her party has from 15% to 70% support across various regions of the country.

That would be impressive if true, since 31 parties are contesting elections in the new member state, including a monarchist party and the Ostrava-Is-Having-a-Good-Time Party, named after an industrial city in the north-east of the country.

The Czech Communists are fielding a minor celebrity of their own - one who has literally set his sights higher than anyone else in his country.

Vladimir Remek is the only Czech astronaut to date; his 1978 Soyuz mission made him the first person in space who was neither Russian nor American.

He was followed into space a matter of months later by Poland's Miroslaw Hermaszewski - who is also standing for the European Parliament.

Polish stars

As befits the new giant of the European Union, Poland is fielding a large number of candidates who have already secured their place in the history books:

  • Footballer Grzegorz Lato was one of the stars of the 1974 World Cup, scoring seven goals as Poland finished third overall

  • Sprinter Marian Woronin was the first European to break the 10-second barrier for the 100m, and won a silver medal at the 1980 Olympics

  • A son of Solidarity - former President Lech Walesa's son, Jaroslaw - is also running for a European parliament seat

  • And so are Sebastian Florek and Klaudusz Sevkovic - who both appeared in Poland's version of Big Brother.

From hockey to rally

Poland's neighbour to the south, Slovakia, is fielding one of its greatest sporting heroes, Peter Stastny.

Race car driver and MEP Ari Vatanen stands in front of a map of the Paris to Dakar rally
The Flying Finn, Ari Vatanen, aims to represent a French constituency
Mr Stastny was among the dominant professional hockey players of the 1980s, coming second only to Wayne Gretzky in the number of goals scored.

The long-time Quebec Nordiques forward was inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Flying Finn, racing driver Ari Vatanen, is standing for re-election, but with a twist: he aims to represent Lyon in France, where he has long lived, rather than his native country.

Not all the high-profile candidates are newcomers to politics - at least seven former national prime ministers are standing, including Italy's Massimo D'Alema.

Italy also sees the candidacy of former television presenter Lilli Gruber, one of the country's best-known journalists.

Lilli Gruber (Picture: Rai)
Lilli Gruber resigned after criticising Berlusconi over his media influence
She resigned from her job at state broadcaster Rai earlier this year, alleging that the country's media baron prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, had too much control over broadcasting.

British television presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk also left his job earlier this year - but not willingly.

He lost his job at the BBC after making derogatory remarks about Arab regimes, and is now standing for the deeply Eurosceptic UK Independence Party.

Veteran war correspondent Martin Bell is standing as an actual independent; like Mr Kilroy-Silk he is a former British parliamentarian.

A Nobel laureate, Northern Ireland's John Hume, is not standing for re-election as an MEP - but neither is his political opponent, the Reverend Ian Paisley.


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