Thursday

18th Jan 2018

Focus

EU rivals square off in first presidential debate

  • The four top candidates will hold another debate Tuesday in Brussels (Photo: Euronews)

The main candidates to become the next President of the European Commission squared off on Monday night (28 April) in the first of two live TV debates ahead of May's European elections.

The European economy, foreign policy and how to combat rising euroscepticism dominated the 90 minute debate televised on Euronews and co-orginised by the European Youth Forum. The debate was held in the Dutch city of Maastricht with an audience composed largely of students.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

More than 47,000 tweets with the hashtag #EUdebate2014 were sent during the debate, which brought together former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker (centre-right), EP chief Martin Schulz (centre-left), ex-Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt (for the Liberals) and MEP Ska Keller for the Greens.

Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras declined the invitation while the eurosceptic conservative and reformist group has decided not to select a lead candidate for the elections.

Despite a format which offered little room for the candidates to go beyond sound-bites and in which to challenge each other, Keller landed the first blow on a rival, arguing that "having been presiding over a tax haven in the EU," Juncker would be ill-equipped to increase tax harmonisation across the bloc.

Juncker said that he was campaigning for "a serious Europe. A Europe that doesn't dream, but gets things done".

Although he was chairman of the Eurogroup which prepared tough bailout programmes for Greece, Ireland and Portugal, he said he had "no programme of austerity" and called for the establishment of a legal minimum wage across the EU.

For his part, Schulz concluded his pitch to voters by promising "to give back justice and fairness" and to create "a Europe of citizens not of banks and speculators".

Meanwhile, Verhofstadt, who currently leads the Liberal MEP group in the assembly, said that the EU needed "less internal market regulation, but more common policies". He later argued that "the crisis and unemployment" had turned young people against the EU.

Keller, who focused most of her remarks on immigration and energy policy, called for "a Europe that cares about ordinary people".

In a debate short on concrete promises, Schulz said that a common EU system of legal immigration would be one of his first initiatives as commission president. He also pledged to publish the Commission's negotiating mandate on the ongoing trade talks with United States.

Europe's 400 million voters will be able to go to the polls between 22-25 May. For the first time, the parliamentary election results are to be taken into account when the leaders of the EU's 28 countries nominate a person to replace current commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. That nominee must also be ratified by a majority of the new European parliament.

Two days after the vote (27 May), the leaders of the current political groups in the parliament as well as the EP president will meet to discuss the results.

Their discussions will feed into deliberations by EU leaders who will meet later that day to decide who to nominate.

As the candidates for the two groups vying for the most seats in the next Parliament, both Juncker and Schulz are anxious to avoid a post-election scenario where EU leaders choose a compromise candidate.

Schulz told the audience that stitching-up the Commission presidency via a back-room deal would reduce the elections to "a little game" while Verhofstadt said that not choosing one of the formal candidates would be "unthinkable".

Verhofstadt also said that at least half of the 28 member Commission should be women.

A snap poll by the Europe Decides site suggested that Verhofstadt, with 55 percent support, had performed strongest in the debate and Juncker, with 9 percent, the weakest.

The candidates will meet once more for a debate in the European Parliament on Tuesday (29 April) while a second televised debate will take place on 15 May.

EUobserved

No fireworks, we're European – the EU presidential debates

They were the first US-style televised debates for the EU's top job, and it showed. The two most likely candidates to take the job as EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, put in underwhelming performances.

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.

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia
  2. Taking full benefit of supercomputers in Europe
  3. Spitzenkandidat system 'difficult to get rid of', hopes lead MEP
  4. Rights NGOs face fresh threats across the EU, agency says
  5. EIB 'more sensitive' to fraud after Dieselgate, chief insists
  6. EU 'hypocrisy' condemns people to Libya, says NGO
  7. Next year's EU election at risk of Russian meddling
  8. Hungary to tax NGOs that 'help' migration

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap