I was only six when my parents got a VHS copy of 1989’s Tim Burton’s version of Batman. When Batman defeated the Joker, brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson (spoiler alert), I recall thinking: “What is next?” Then, in 1992, I went to the movies and a movie trailer opened with Michelle Pfeiffer saying: “I am a woman. Hear me roar,” The danger was back at Gotham City! The adrenaline was at a maximum level when the title “Batman Returns” appeared on the screen at the end of the trailer. Heroes always come back since we always have new villains to chase.
As European politics gains in prominence, the journey of politicians can often resemble the arcs of iconic superheroes. Just as Batman and Superman rejuvenated their commitments to their cities after their respective “returns,” politicians who ascend to the European institutions can increasingly aim for a triumphant return.
We have three upcoming elections in Slovakia, Poland and the Netherlands, and three political figures are the main face of opposition in those countries after years in the European arena. In Slovakia, we have a liberal returning: Michal Šimečka, Member of the European Parliament for Progresívne Slovensko since 2019 and now leading his party to become the second biggest political force in the Central European nation. In Poland, we have a conservative, the former president of the European Council, Donald Tusk. He returned to Polish politics after a successful term as prime minister to challenge Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s conservative nationalist PiS. In the Netherlands, we have a socialist, Frans Timmermans, the outgoing Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. He is back in the Dutch race to lead the GreenLeft/Labour Party alliance and try to end the 12-year reign of the liberal-right VVD.