Tuesday

16th Aug 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Draghi's grip on power finally unravels

Italy looked set to lose its highly-respected prime minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, after his attempt to relaunch his grand coalition government ended with right-wing parties joining the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) in deserting him.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Germany rejects visa ban for Russian tourists
  2. Iran responds to EU's 'final text' on nuclear deal
  3. Model minority myths
  4. EU must make public who really owns its fishing fleets
  5. Germany needs to cut gas use by 20% to stave off winter crisis
  6. Europe's wildfire destruction set to hit new record
  7. How Putin and Erdoğan are making the West irrelevant
  8. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us