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Image for European personalities of the year (12 images) European personalities of the year (12 images)

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Turkey's Julian Assange, Germany's blind protest hero, Italy's gay catholic 'Obama', Lithuania's extreme feminist, Slovenia's cross-country skier, Hungary's sexy scientist...the faces of the year for in 12 of the 27 European countries

Italy: Nichi Vendola, future leader of Italy?

Catholic, homosexual, communist and ecologist, the Bari-born politician is the only credible alternative to Berlusconism. The problem is that the democratic party (the main opposition party PD) doesn't like the 52-year-old or his Sinistra, Ecologia e Libertà ('left ecology freedom, SEL) party. Nor has Vendola any representatives in parliament. But the young generation see hope for the future via the left in him. The BBC is dubbing him Italy's Obama whilst the Italians call him a 'left-wing Berlusconi' ('Berlusconi di sinistra') (Federico Iarlori, Image: (cc) GhostSwann/ Vincenzo Fiore/ Flickr)

Greece: Mikis Theodorakis, songwriter and composer

Mikis Theodorakis always was and always will be a unionist, even in these difficult times of Greece, where politicians try to create a civil war climate. The timeless singer, 85, allows his music to be downloaded for free via his blog, 'for my songs to reach all places of the Greek land, all aspects of the Greek soul'. On 1 December he announced the establishment of an independent citizens movement, Spitha ('Spark') (Elina Makri, Athens/ Image: (cc) Heinrich Klaffs/ Flickr)

 UK: Boris Johnson, mayor of London

When a generation of cafebabel-minded people in the UK voted liberal democrat and former MEP Nick Clegg deputy prime minister, we were expecting to feature him in this end of year series on 'European prime minister of 2010'. With this avalanche of government austerity measures and steep transport fare increases, it might be strange that we turn then to the conservative mayor of London since 2008 (until 2012). How to deny the popularity of a man who has the city's July 2010 £140 million cycle scheme and trees nicknamed after him?! Johnson's particular brand of English, eccentric look, uncanny humour as well as his all-new hydrogen bus schemes are some of the factors qualifying him to be's UK personality of the year (Image: (cc) leafar/ Raphaël Labbé/ Flickr/ (Read's interview with Johnson's father, Stanley)

Bulgaria: Kristalina Georgieva, institutional European of the year

This enormously adequate, intelligent and hard-working 57-year-old is a former world bank official and the present European commissioner for international co-operation, humanitarian aid and crisis response. As such she had to handle not one but two major natural disasters this year. But she did great - so great that she got not one but two European Voice awards, becoming European of the year and European commissioner of the year. Liked and respected by everyone both in Bulgaria and abroad, Kristalina Georgieva is one of those people that we need more of and have high hopes for. "I am not a politician and that helps me a lot,' she says (Bistra Andreeva, Sofia/ Image: Georgieva pictured at her EU commissioner hearing (cc) European Parliament/ Flickr)

Poland: Jacek Borcuch

When cafebabel.pol correspondent Anna Sidoruk met the director in Warsaw she noted his dark glasses, the herringbone jacket, the threadbare Converse trainers...Jacek Borcuch easily makes personality of the year for bridging the gap between his country's Solidarity movement, rock music and the early eighties he was a teenager in. The 40-year-old is the Oscar candidate for Poland for best foreign film in 2011, and we want to see more of that stroppy character lurking in his memories (Image courtesy of JB Facebook page)

Lithuania: Dr. Nida Vasiliauskaitė, young philosopher

Nida Vasiliauskaitė is well-known for writing sharp commentaries to the press on various political and social issues, remembered for her distinct style and flawless use of formal logic to find loopholes in her opponents' statements. For all of this she is also hated by some, who accuse her of radical stance, extreme feminist views and the like. Nida has spoken and written remarkably about the government's family policy, education, nationalism, LGBT rights. Watch this space for her in 2011; she will continue to contribute to public debate extensively. But on top of all these achievements, she remains a fun and interesting person with a great sense of humour (Daiva Repeckaite, Vilnius/ Image courtesy of Nida Vasiliauskaitė)

Spain: Ignacio Escolar, journalist

At 35, the boy from Burgos is always on the ball: whether it's appearing as a Spanish radio or television commentator to his blog on politics, which is the most popular in the country (according to Wikio rankings). He has won many awards such as the progressive women's prize, for when he refused to accept adverts for prostitutes in his newspaper Público in 2007, where he was an editor. He is also famed for an article he wrote supporting piracy (Argemino Barro, Image: (cc) marilinkMarilin Gonzalo/ Flickr)

Slovenia: Petra Majdič, sprint specialist

Slovenia's best cross-country skier is a wonderful example of extreme courage and willpower, as she showed during the 2010 winter olympic games in Vancouver. The 30-year-old won a bronze medal in classic sprint in spite of the unfortunate fall during the training that left her with five broken ribs and a punctured pneumothorax (Jasa Pipan, Ljubljana/ Image: (cc) oskarlin/ Flickr)

Romania: Mugur Isărescu, the national bank governor

The former prime minister-for-a-year, who initiated negotiations with the EU, gets the people's eclat in 2010 for keeping the national currency healthy in a tough year of austerity measures for the Romanians. Not only is Isărescu a stable and trusted figure in Romanian politics - he's been in this role since 1990 - he's also a pretty smart and outspoken guy who slams the government every time he has the chance. At HQ in Paris we say the 61-year-old deserves a plaudit just for the meaning of his name - Mugur means sprout (Jo Ilie, Bucharest)

Germany: S21 demonstrator Dietrich Wagner

The retired 66-year-old 'strike daddy' became the sad hero of the 2010 German protest against the controversial 'Stuttgart 21' train station construction project. Since months it's mobilised a country which doesn't really have a strike reputation. Dietrich Wagner lost his eyesight when police turned water-jet guns on the crowds. A painted bloody eye has became the solidarity signature of the ongoing strike movement (Katharina Kloss, Image: (cc) S21/ Flickr)

Hungary: Laszlo Robert Zsiros, science communicator

Millions of euros are put into attracting youngsters to the science and engineering field in Europe. 30-year-old Laszlo is proving that science can be made fun and sexy on a very low budget. His videoblog full of home-made experiments was voted the most entertaining blog of Hungary in 2008. Even whilst offline he is always up for finding new ways to get people involved, from science festivals all over Europe (from Warsaw to Belgrade, from Copenhagen to Lisbon) as well as organising hands-on science workshops or the annual Geek Pride Day in Hungary. 'The world is interesting', runs the motto of the Palace of Miracles science centre where he works in Budapest. (Krisztian Gal, Budapest/ Image: (c) Akos Kiss)

Mehmet Baransu, the Julian Assange of Turkey

Here's your bonus personality of the year...In 2008 the Taraf newspaper journalist revealed the documents prepared by generals who were planning a coup against the AK Party government. At the age of 31, he is hailed for revolutionising the Turkish press. He has also been victim of phone-tapping (Ozcan Tikit, Istanbul/ Image: (cc) Serkan Sertürk/ Habertürk)