What are EU Presidential Debates?
The outcome of the 2014 European elections will, for the first time, influence the selection of the next president of the European Commission. Five European parties have nominated a campaign figurehead – or ‘Spitzenkandidat’ – that also serves as their candidate to head the EU executive. Putting such ‘faces’ on the pan-European campaigns is hoped to counter the decreasing voters’ turnout.
With just weeks to go before polls open on 22-25 May, the candidates will face each other in a series of ‘Presidential Debates’. These debates are broadcasted by national and European media. The candidates will challenge each other on their vision for the European Union, European jobs and employment, energy, economy and many other topics.
What’s the agenda?
Following negotiations between the European political parties and a number of organisations, a series of seven debates were agreed. Four include the broad field of candidates, while three others are face-off debates between the two frontrunners, Jean-Claude Juncker (centre-right) and Martin Schulz (socialist).
What are the rules?
Each debate has its own rules, negotiated beforehand by the parties’ campaign teams. The timing for candidates to speak, whether they’ll stand up or sit down, or even the fact that candidates will shake each others’ hands afterwards… nothing is left up to chance.
Language is a sensitive issue: With a Luxembourgish candidate, two Germans, a Dutch-speaking Belgian, a Frenchman and a Greek, each candidate will try his/her best to impress the audience with their language skills. Being a polyglot is also an important requirement to get the EU executive’s top spot.