After the summer break, the composition of the next European Commission is one the first important votes for members of the European Parliament (MEPs). This is quite a big deal: the new Commission may be represented by fewer women than in the previous team, and there is a risk that some political groups may decide to vote against it.

On Tuesday (02.09.2014), in the first edition of our weekly show “U Talking to Me?” after the summer, Eva Paunova, a Bulgarian member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), and Brando Benifei, an Italian MEP with the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), debated whether qualifications should be put ahead of ideology and gender.

So far, only five women have been nominated as commissioners – four fewer than in the previous European Commission team. The Liberals, Greens and S&D in the European Parliament have already said they would vote against a Commission with fewer women. According to Paunova, the priority is to evaluate the capabilities of the commissioners and not only focus on gender balance. She stressed that it makes no sense to already position oneself before the hearings of the nominated commissioners in the European Parliament.

No compromise for S&D

Benifei also believes that the composition of the next Commission shouldn’t only be an ideological issue, but he and his S&D group will stand by the principle of being able to vote for a fair number of women in the new Commission team.

Putin an unpredictable partner

The second part of the debate focused on the crisis in Ukraine. Holger Winkelmann, a journalist from the German Euranet Plus partner AMS-NET, opened the issue by asking our guests whether they thought the European Union was reacting too softly towards Russia with regards to sanctions.

Paunova said that EU leaders could have been quicker to issue further sanctions, but she stressed that the EU shouldn’t overreact and risk getting to the point of no return. This was especially true because the EU was dealing with an unpredictable partner, she said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, for both guests it was important for the EU to remain united and talk with one voice. Benifei said EU leaders did well by showing that they could decide on sanctions together, though added that taking time for dialogue was crucial.

Listen to the whole interview below (or watch it above).

  • Moderator and author: Laeticia Markakis
"U talking to Me?" debate with moderator Laeticia Markakis and MEPs Eva Paunova and Brando Benifei / Euranet Plus News Agency

“U Talking to Me?” debate with moderator Laeticia Markakis and MEPs Eva Paunova and Brando Benifei

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