Wednesday

20th Sep 2017

EUobserved

On lacklustre EU debates and top job candidates

  • the chamber echoed – both literally and metaphorically (Photo: EUobserver)

The setting was more than unfortunate. Europe’s first ever live (!) televised (!) debate between the two main contenders for the European Commission crown took place in an empty chamber.

And that chamber echoed – both literally and metaphorically.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Europe’s first ever live televised debate between the two main contenders for the European Commission crown took place in an empty chamber (Photo: EUobserver)

The event – on Wednesday (9 April) – had the Twitter hashtag of #EPduel. That was a misnomer of some magnitude. There was not even the barest hint of political fisticuffs.

The two candidates – Jean-Claude Juncker for the centre-right and Martin Schulz for the centre-left – agreed, broadly, on many of the topics broached; austerity, employment, France’s intervention in Mali, immigration, Britain’s EU dilemma.

The moderators asked how they differed from one another. Schulz was noted that Juncker shared his ideas.

There was some banter about why Juncker’s support for Eurobonds had evolved. Juncker emphasised his superior governmental and EU experience.

On substance, they were more or less even. There was much said on what the EU could or should do. Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso’s now thoroughly over-used “big on the big things, small on the smaller things” got an airing. There was little about what Jean-Claude Juncker or Martin Schulz believed.

On style, Schulz had the edge; his voice changed notes every now and then. Juncker was studiously monotonous. It required some strength of will to sit through the entire 40 minutes.

Was this about winning over voters ahead of the May EU elections? It did not seem like it. Perhaps it was the setting. If there is no audience it’s easy to forget real people are supposed to be listening.

But perhaps it was also because the European Commission President is not in a position to make concrete promises on things that matter to people. (Look how long it is taking to get the youth guarantee scheme off the ground). Meanwhile foreign policy topics – like Ukraine and Russia – which they both answered on are not for the European Commission either.

Juncker and Schulz will meet several more times to debate, and twice with the full stable of contenders (on 28 April in Maastricht and 15 May in Brussels).

They are also travelling around member states – although possibly not Britain where both are considered arch-federalists – to sell their candidacy. (Juncker recently noted he had not been invited and was not going to “impose” his campaign bus on the island).

These various media appearances do have one effect though.

Creating an institutional truth

They make things awkward for the camp (including Germany) that do not believe the EU vote should automatically lead to the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ of the most popular party becoming EU commission president.

In fact, the treaty says nothing about parties running top candidates. It only says that leaders must take the EU vote result into account when nominating the commission chief.

However, media (and voters) are good at shorthand.

The France 24 moderators introduced the two as the candidate for the presidency of the commission. Say something often enough and it becomes true. Or at least difficult to make it untrue again.

This could be awkward for Juncker too. It is said that he doesn’t even particularly want the job. He would rather emerge as head of the European Council after some post-EU vote horsetrading.

But if everybody keeps introducing him as a commission candidate (and if the centre-right win of course), he may have less choice in the matter than he (or Berlin for that matter) thought.

Perhaps that’s why he spoke in such an uninspiring manner.

EUobserved

Beloved Ashton

It looked like it would be another humdrum year for Catherine Ashton. Then Iran happened.

EUobserved

Remorseless troikas

The week in which little light was shed on the workings of the troika.

EUobserved

Playing at a British EU exit

Playing at a British EU exit. Is it a case of: 'can't live with them. But don't particularly want to live without them either'?

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary set for fresh campaign against public enemy Soros
  2. Iceland's PM leads in polls ahead of October elections
  3. Erdogan demands Iraqi Kurds cancel referendum
  4. Ireland to hold referendum on ownership of water
  5. Report: May to offer €20bn as Brexit bill in Florence speech
  6. Merkel poised to win election despite CDU dip in polls
  7. EU unveils cyber security ideas
  8. EU must do more to cut emissions, auditors say

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  2. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  3. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  6. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  7. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  8. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  9. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  10. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  11. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  12. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package