Commission President: Debates

While the first European Commission Presidential debate may not have stirred up much controversy, the impact of the performances of the four participants could prove interesting. A snap poll judged ALDE’s candidate Guy Verhofstadt to won the contest with 55% support, while the EPP’s Jean Claude Juncker – and narrow favourite to win the Presidency – was judged to be the weakest, with 9 percent.

The debate took place on 28 April in Maastricht before an audience largely made up of students. More than 47,000 tweets with the hashtag #EUdebate2014 were sent during the debate, which brought together Parliament President Martin Schulz (S&D) and Ska Keller for the Greens, as well as Juncker and Verhofstadt.

Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras declined the invitation while the right wing European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) group has decided not to select a lead candidate for the elections.

While the debate was not as passionate as some might have hoped, certain key issues were touched upon. Juncker for example stressed the link between public finances and growth, and argued that greater economic coordination was needed to reassert European stability. Schulz stressed the need to reverse austerity policies, and focused on the need to strengthen regulation of the banking sector.

Verhofsdadt, perhaps the most outspokenly pro-European on the night, underlined the need for a more united Europe, and talked about how ‘proper integration’ of the energy and telecommunications markets could help boost growth. Keller focused on the importance of the green economy and social rights.

Further debates are scheduled for 9 and 15 May, while the two lead candidates, Juncker and Schulz, will also face each other on 8 and 20 May.