Sunday

21st Jan 2018

EUobserved

Dress rehearsal for 2019?

  • Likely lads: candidates from the three biggest groups in action Thursday (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

It's time to pack up the debating bags. Take off the make-up. Turn down the lights. The EU's wobbly leap into live pan-European politics is over. For now.

What has been learned from these debates between commission president hopefuls? Quite a lot actually.

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.

First the superficial. For a real quickfire discussion, all the participants need to speak one language. There were three languages on Thursday evening. Those with interpretation were at a disadvantage.

There should be fewer topics. Yesterday's debate lurched like a drunk from one subject to another skimming over the surface of the economy, job creation, foreign policy, immigration, regional independence, religious symbols and European democracy.

The debates should instead be focused on one topic where the European Commission has power (economic policy for example), and really examine it.

Getting candidates to talk about foreign policy, such as whether to sanction Russia, feels dishonest.

The key thing about the exercise is that much and nothing has changed.

The European Union has not suddenly become a paragon of virtue on the democracy, accountability and transparency front. It remains the faulty construction today that it was yesterday.

And while the Brussels-based EU crowd may have made an evening of this debate, the vast, vast, vast majority of citizens remained blissfully unaware of the process.

And yet something has been started.

Call it a dress rehearsal for the EU vote in 2019. Assuming, and it remains a big assumption (but smaller than two months ago), that one of the candidates becomes the next president of the Commission, then this Spitzenkandidat process will have been set in political stone.

Going ahead with this assumption; the 2019 vote will be more professional and more political. And less defensive. The 2014 exercise bore the burden of being a 'first-time-ever' phenomenon and the threat that EU leaders will choose to ignore all six candidates in favour of someone else entirely.

What has happened over the last few months has not been perfect. But then it was never going to be. And some stumbling blocs will remain. Language is one. It takes work to find a rapport when both the contender and the audience are working in a second language.

Nationalities are another. A French contender, at home, can always fall back on the common starting point of being French. That same French contender campaigning in Slovakia has to fall back on the common starting point of being European. It's true, of course, but it resonates less strongly.

The next weeks will show what this exercise has brought us.

In the meantime, there will be critics aplenty. Sure the debates were lame. The candidates were, for the most part, uninspiring. How the candidates were chosen, particularly in the two biggest political groups, was itself not particularly democratic.

And yet, and yet. They did some real campaigning for the post. Media attention around the EP election has increased hugely as a result (albeit from a zero starting point).

And most importantly, a connection is being established between the voter and the EU. A majority vote for the left should result in a commission president from the left. A majority vote for the right should result in one from the right.

It's a start.

EUobserved

Beloved Ashton

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

EUobserved

On being 'Obama-ed'

Well, he finally made it to the EU capital. There was much anticipation. And quite considerable upheaval.

EUobserved

The European Parliament's institutional coup

Member state leaders have been backed into a corner. They have, as it were, been overtaken by the campaign bus; or outspoken at the TV debate. Yes, the European Parliament is in the process of staging a rather successful coup.

EUobserved

Remorseless troikas

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

EUobserved

After the EP vote – working the camembert

Righteous declarations, posturing, a measured amount of fence-sitting and a hefty dose of speculation is to be expected after the EP results come in.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

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. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia