When Fabio met Uschi – Coffee & memes with Ursula von der Leyen

Commission President and EPP lead candidate Ursula von der Leyen and Director-General Fabio Mauri
“Oh, David Sassoli, my good friend, I really miss him”
“At least we can cherish his memory, as those of everybody who worked hard for the EU”

“P. S. Whether you accept it or not, don’t worry: I will not ask Charles Michel for a rebound interview”. This is the last line of the diplomatic email I sent on the 24th of November 2023 to test if there was a possibility to interview the President of the European Commission.

The answer from Sophie, her social media officer, didn’t take long: “Big fan, personally. Let me discuss it with my colleagues”. This was followed by a period of “It’s not off the table yet”, “She is busy in this moment”, “We’re trying hard but there’s still some uncertainty”. It was on that moment, when all hope had faded, that I received the cutest message: “We have a spring miracle, I call you in one hour”. It was on the 24th of May 2024.

The counterproposal was interesting: no proper interview, but I could have twenty minutes with the President to explain to her what memes are and how we can use them to communicate the beauty and contradictions of the European Union.

Never thought the Commission President would read that headline…
Europolitan is like Cosmopolitan for the EU bubble.
“Oh, but that’s so funny!”
You can show it to the next College of Commissioners!

So here I am in the Lloyd Coffee Eatery, a cozy bar close to the EPP Headquarter, waiting for the President to arrive. “She will be a bit early”, her bodyguard warns me. I see her through the windows and the atmosphere changes quickly: people in the street stop walking and stare at her, some get closer, some others take out their phones to shoot a blurry picture… We sit at a reserved table, I lose connection with what is happening around me, I just focus on the memes:

So, they told me I should lead the conversation. And this conversation will be about the EU communication and how we can make it more interesting.
I heard you make very funny stuff with EU politics, I am sure it is not easy.

“Here I am breaking the fourth wall”

I start showing her some prints of my memes, pointing out the different aspects and forms that this very versatile form of communication can have. Her piercing blue eyes follow with attention the different memes, the unusual yet funny presentation style helps breaking the ice; and she starts asking questions:

Where do you get your inspiration from?
It comes from reading lots of comics. You know, the ones your teachers in school tell you: “Don’t read them or you’ll become stupid”? I read a lot of them!

My children read a lot of manga…
Oh, such a betrayal of French-Belgian comics, they are the best!

I agree, I was reading Tintin to them when they were little. And Asterix and Obelix, they are fantastic. Even though, after the writer [René Goscinny (1926 – 1977), ed.] died, Asterix became less funny.

So you like comics…
I was reading Tintin since my childhood.

Oh, did your parents approve such reading?
Yes, they were fine with it, they perceived it as some kind of high literature. What I really like about Tintin is that every time you read it, you discover new reasons to laugh about it.

“I’ll have what she’s having”. Yes, the EU can be fun!
“The beauty of satire is that you can go a bit above the line. You can keep it polite and still make a point that would not be as effective on a press release.”
“I love it!”

Little by little, the pile of memes reaches its end.

To conclude: The EU is sexy, the EU is cool, we should really give a little boost to the institutional communication. Otherwise the bad guys, who are so good with communication, are going to win more and more.
It’s true that we could do better, sometimes I look at my Instagram account and it is always the same. As you say, we should really think about how to integrate the serious press releases with some wit.

This almost sounds like an endorsement… I call this meeting a success, next time we sign a memeorandum of understanding.

Frequently asked questions

(by differently sharp people)

Yes, these are all genuine questions (sic(k)) collected from the many comments I received in the last days.

Did you sell your soul to the EPP?
DG MEME is a fair satirical page and tries to make fun of any situation, according to the personal taste of its author. There was no exchange of money, goods nor political influence to organize this meeting, just a mutual curiosity and my desire to share some ideas on how to improve the EU communication.

So you are saying we should all vote for the EPP?
Political parties are made of people; some of these people, independently from the party, are good and work hard to build a certain vision of EU and they have my respect. As such, DG MEME endorses any pro-EU political party, with a slight preference for candidates that do not seek counterproductive coalitions with the eurosceptics… Nevertheless, as disappointing as it might be, one has to accept that compromise is the very soul of EU politics; and if your usual allies perform poorly (their fault), one has to explore new possibilities.

Check out the DG MEME’s merch!

Why did you give exposure to Ursula von der Leyen?
She is the most prominent EU politician, with hundreds of people working for her, an army of advisors and a significant communication budget… Do you really think a one-man satirical page can give her exposure?

But the fact that you talked to her gives her an advantage on the other candidates!
You mean all these candidates you can’t even vote directly for?

Would you meet other Spitzenkandidaten then?
Of course, and I can tell you there is still time until the 9th of June… Check my social media on Sunday.

A hug can always help when you’re running a hybrid electoral campaign

You should be neutral, you must meet all the Spitzenkandidaten!
I am not pretending to be neutral. I don’t have to, as I am not a public service. This whole page is my communication project, some kind of very serious hobby, and I am free to decide how much time I allocate to it and which people I feel like meeting.

Are you still going to make memes about Ursula?
You bet!

Do you know that children in Gaza are being killed every day?
Yes and it’s terrible. But as much as I appreciate Chaos theory, I don’t see a correlation, not to mention a causation, between the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and me presenting a meme-based communication proposal to von der Leyen. So maybe save your sterile vis polemica for those causes that really deserve it?

I will still unfollow you, because it makes me feel morally superior. Also I don’t understand how democracy works. What do you think of that?
Fine with me, please be consistent and block me, so you can really be sure you don’t see my work when your friends retweet it: if you cancel a satirical page, do it properly, no half measures.

2 replies on “When Fabio met Uschi – Coffee & memes with Ursula von der Leyen”

I thought your Instagram was funny and then I ended up reading this and… It’s even better. Please continue posting in stories whenever you publish on your site. Great work.

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