Wednesday

22nd Mar 2017

Focus

German TV duel gives flavour of EU grand coalition

  • Schulz (l) and Juncker (r) disagreed on few points (Photo: ZDF)

It seemed like a gathering of old friends. Jean-Claude Juncker from the centre-right European People's Party and Martin Schulz from the Social-Democrats are both pro-European, both from the same generation and both represent parties that are likely to form a grand coalition after the EU elections.

On their first German-speaking TV duel on Thursday evening (8 May), broadcast on German and Austrian public TV, the two "Spitzenkandidaten" had few disagreements.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Schulz accused Juncker of representing a Europe of "leaders meeting behind closed doors, in dark rooms" who then take decisions that are communicated to their "underlings".

"I am not for this kind of Europe," said the German politician, currently head of the European Parliament.

"I got to know Martin Schulz in a dark room behind closed doors," Juncker retorted, in reference to the European Council meetings where the head of the European Parliament takes part in some meetings.

Juncker – a Luxembourg politician who was the longest-serving Prime Minister in the EU until last year – quipped about his age and his ambition to become head of the EU commission, "because I've already been head of a government".

"I want to set one thing straight – I am 59, not 60," he said.

"But you look like 60," retorted Schulz, who is 58.

Juncker also joked about "bleached chicken" - a German consumer protection concern linked to the EU-US free trade negotiations. When asked if he would allow for bleached chicken to be imported, Juncker replied: "No. The chickens don't want it, either."

A surprise answer came on the issue of the single seat of the European Parliament. Juncker said he is in favour of keeping the status quo, with the monthly commute from Brussels to Strasbourg. "France would never agree to give up the Strasbourg seat. It's like the God question in Catechism, you don't ask it."

Schulz was asked about his former party boss and ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who celebrated his 70th birthday in the company of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Schulz replied that he "doesn't always agree with Schroeder on Russia", but claimed that in this case, the former chancellor used his influence for the release of four German hostages held by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

A survey carried out by Stern shows that 41 percent of Germans would like Schulz to become the next commission president, while only 24 percent would favour Juncker.

The two parties they represent are likely to form a grand coalition after the EU elections in order to be able to pass legislation through the Parliament.

Currently, the EPP can form a majority only with the Liberals, who sometimes form a leftist majority with Social-Democrats and the Greens. But since all big groups are set to lose seats and eurosceptic and far-right parties are to make an entry in the next legislature, a grand coalition is seen as the most likely outcome.

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. Russia invites EU diplomats to occupied Crimea
  2. UK parliament in lockdown after reported attack
  3. Brussels attacks remembered with minute of silence and noise
  4. Magnitsky's lawyer injured near Moscow
  5. Trump to travel to Brussels on 25 May for Nato summit
  6. Polish defence minister accuses Tusk of treason
  7. Fillon slips in polls as new allegations emerge
  8. Brexit summit for EU-27 will be on 29 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Advertisements
  2. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  3. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  4. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  6. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  7. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  8. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  10. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  11. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  12. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst