Four leading candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission argued policy and their vision for Europe in a 75 minute debate hosted by the Euranet Plus radio and television network. The debate was contested in the European Parliament, Brussels, on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 29.

The candidates, Jean-Claude Juncker (European People’s Party), Ska Keller (The Greens – European Free Alliance), Martin Schulz (Socialists & Democrats) and Guy Verhofstadt (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) contested five themes on live television and radio. The themes: unemployment, austerity, immigration, energy and finance were led by questions from journalists in 15 European countries via live video satellite transmission, live audio transmission and pre-recorded video.

The participating journalists contributed to the debate from Euranet Plus partner radio stations in Athens, Bielefeld, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Lisbon, Maribor, Milan, Paris, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Valladolid, Warsaw and Zagreb.

Watch ‘The Best of…’ series – candidate highlights from the Big Crunch

On Energy

All the candidates opposed an immediate introduction of fracking. Ska Keller (Greens) opposed any use of nuclear power and fracking for gas or oil in Europe. Calling fracking a dirty and unsafe technology she said Europes energy security was to be found in its own resources – renewable resources such as wind and solar energy.

Each of the candidates acknowledged a new energy mix was necessary, with only Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP) arguing that this should remain a matter for member states individually. Keller, Schulz and Verhofstadt each agreed that a European energy solution was necessary, though they differed as to how this should be achieved.

On Immigration

The key themes were movement within the Schengen area, the access of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone; the free movement of European citizens; and the sharing of the immigration burden. Martin Shulz argued that Europe lacked a coherent immigration law. By creating a clear immigation framework, he said, much progress could be made in balancing Europes immigraton issues. All candidates agreed that immigration was necessary for the maintenance of a prosperous economy, though they diverged when it came to explaining how immigration and migration across Europe could be funded and how benefit tourism could be avoided.

On Austerity

Austerity was perhaps the most controversial and divisive issue of the debate. Jean-Claude Juncker said that while it was necessary to impose austerity measures, it was also necessary to bolster social measures to alleviate the impact of austerity. Schulz and Verhofstadt both argued with Juncker that a key impact of the austerity financing was a lack of credit for small and medium businesses.

Verhofstadt stated that without improved credit access for SMEs Europe may never find its way out of the economic crisis. He proposed several measures to achieve improved credit flow.

On Finance

Banking Union and Euro Bonds dominated the discussion. Juncker argued that he supported the idea of Euro Bonds in an ideal world but he said that world did not exist, and that to introduce Euro Bonds tomorrow, would make no immediate difference to Europe’s economy.

Schulz said that the framework of the Banking Union meant that citizens would never again have to bail out the banks – banks, he said, would bail-out banks. Verhofstadt argued that still more was needed, in particular, that there should be a distinction between investment and retail banks, and their contribution to the banking fund should reflect their relative risk portfolio

Ska Keller said that Europe must find a way to stop banks taking the homes of debtors and still demanding payment on the defaulted mortgage.

On Unemployment

Real jobs. No exploitation. Creating the conditions for employment. These were the issues most discussed by the candidates. Credit access for SMEs was identified by all candidates as a key foundation to improving Europe’s employment situation. The use of large-scale pan-european projects was advocated as a means of stimulating the job market.

However, migration and mobility of the unemployed were highlighted as critical to resolving the employment crisis. With more than six million job vacancies across Europe, Schulz and Keller said that much more needed to be done to enable job mobility for European citizens.

Verhofstadt said that there was no need for an European unemployment benefit system, adding that he did not see how this could possibly enhance the employment situation in Europe.

Watch how the guests and the moderators prepared for the Big Crunch debate … 

The storm on the social media was quite impressive – our audience used the following channels to let their opinions and impressions be known:

Debating Europe ...Participate in the follow-up debate about our Big Crunch organized by Debating Europe – the platform that lets you discuss YOUR ideas with Europe’s leaders!

And also answer the question: Which candidate do YOU think won the presidential debate?


The conversation on Twitter

The hash tag #RockEurope on Twitter tied together the support and input from all across the EU:

  Big Crunch Presidential Debate

17 Responses

  1. Attilio moro

    We need new faces. no wander if people will not turn out to vote for potential candidates who have been sitting in eu parliament for the last 20 years,with such poor results. Thank you.attilio Moro

    • Alexander Morhart

      Das stimmt! Außerdem ist es keine faire und also keine freie Wahl, wenn nur vier Parteien bevorzugt werden und alle anderen ausgesperrt werden. Diese Beschränkung trägt dazu bei, den Status quo zu zementieren.

  2. Denise Luna

    I had some trouble to understand the English of the female moderator. The male moderator is more seasoned.

    • Javier

      Seasoned? He’s not “more seasoned”, he is a native speaker! The female moderator speaks as good English as any of the non-native participants at the table.

  3. EU-VAL

    […] I veckan hölls två tv-sända debatter med toppkandidaterna till kommissionsordförandeposten. Missade du tv-debatten? Du kan fortfarande se debatten på Euranets hemsida>>  […]


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