20th Mar 2018


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders expected to approve Brexit future talks guidelines
  2. Tusk: EU must 'continue to engage' with US on trade
  3. European elections set for 23-26 May 2019
  4. EU tries to find common candidate for top UN food job
  5. Facebook post triggers Norway no-confidence vote
  6. Merkel: 'no reason' to sanction Schroeder for Russia support
  7. MEPs and Council strike deal on posted workers' rights
  8. EU parliament to investigate Facebook data 'breach'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverHiring - Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience - Apply Now!
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?