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Speed-D(eb)ating with the European presidential candidates

Speed-D(eb)ating with the European presidential candidates

Photographer:Fotograaf: Catharina Rudschies

First European Presidential Debate

MAASTRICHT. An atmosphere of excitement was swinging in and around the theatre at the Vrijthof Monday night, where the First European Presidential Debate was hold from 7 to 8.30pm. Many of the 700 international students attending the discussion of the four candidates for the presidency of the European Commission had dressed up and were eagerly awaiting the entry to the theatre hall. That night, the four candidates Jean-Claude Juncker (European People's Party), Martin Schulz (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats), Guy Verhofstadt (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party) and Ska Keller (European Green Party) were answering pre-selected questions from students across Europe about the future of EU politics.

How to combat the economic crisis? How to deal with different powers of the institutions? What strategy to apply in foreign policy issues such as the Ukrainian crisis? How to handle eurosceptic right-wing parties? And how to increase voter turn-outs? One and a half hours were little for debating all such issues. But the candidates tried best to express themselves in the thirty to sixty seconds they were given for each answer. Catch phrases such as “We need a Europe that gets jobs done” (Juncker), “We need a market under democratic scrutiny” (Schulz), “We need a more integrated Europe” (Verhofstadt) and “We need a Europe that cares about the people and not only about big business” (Keller) framed the argumentation lines of the four politicians.

But having a debate with the young Europeans raised the question: where were they, the policies for the youth? It was merely one question that was dealing explicitly with such concern: what could be done to create quality jobs for young Europeans? The candidates had different approaches to that. Schulz suggested a European credit system for small enterprises, who would mostly need young workers' skills. Verhofstadt promoted a unified capital market and fully-developed economic union to produce growth. Juncker favoured investments through public financing to stimulate growth. And Ska Keller advocated the investments in education and health system that were beneficial for the society and create jobs people could live off.

Has the event in the end widened the debate of EU issues? Anna-Louisa Lindberg, a second-year European Studies (ES) student finds yes. “They had good topics and I liked that the differences between the parties were visible in the candidates' statements.” Emily Pike, a third-year ES-student, stated she was missing a bit that the youth was not so much addressed: “It was more like we were only one of the many policies. However, I think it is useful for raising the attention about EU politics and the elections.”

Catharina Rudschies 

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