We’re not sure what happened to the rest of Europe, but last night the French and Belgian twitterspheres were positively ebullient with European Election commentary. The focus was on four out of six hopefuls for the next European Commission Presidency. Four hopefuls perhaps better summed up as, “three old men and a young woman” according to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament and social democrat candidate. Banter.
The young woman in this mix was Green MEP Ska Keller, alongside two former Prime Ministers Guy Verhofstadt and Jean-Claude Junker. The U.S. style debate was humorous and upbeat, if devoid of any policy content whatsoever. But this debate was never about policy. Organised in cooperation with the European Youth Forum and Euronews, this was a chance to show a younger generation that European politicians have personalities after all. Well, three of them at least. When the Brussels screening audience of 100, mostly young, professionals were asked if the debate had been good for Jean-Claude Junker of the European People’s Party, only four people put their hands up. Need we say more. Indeed the young audiences in Brussels and Maastricht both groaned simultaneously when Junker’s answer to whether EU power lay with the European Council or the European Commission was, “with the people”.
On Youth Unemployment
A forceful and surprisingly charismatic Schulz said he wanted the European Commission to champion justice and fairness with a much greater focus on citizens. We’ll leave it to you to fill in the rest, but indeed Schulz made one of the only clear policy proposals for solving youth unemployment during the entire debate: to provide credits for small to medium sized enterprises employing young people. 90 minutes later we’re still not sure what those credits would be for, but 10 points to the President of the European Parliament for coming up with an actual policy proposal. Schulz also touched on the need to police companies which abuse interns. Hear hear!
Another light-bulb moment for Martin Schulz was when he chastised a rather orange moderator for asking MEP Ska Keller what she had to offer next to President of the European Parliament and two former Prime Ministers. “I’m interested in proposals,” he said, “Not in someone’s age”. Indeed Keller, held her own on all topics and was particularly vocal on the need for more ambitious climate and energy targets for 2050 and the Ukraine crisis.
A fired up Guy Verhofstadt was also on top form yesterday, voted by the Brussels audience as the overall winner of the debate, with Schulz almost equal behind him, closely followed by Ska Keller in third. Verhofstadt said he wanted a new leadership that would elaborate a vision for the future. Righto. But then he clearly promised to ensure 50% women in the Commission under his leadership. We hope he means Commissioners and not secretaries.
Speaking the Language of Young People
Euronews’s James Franey handed over to Brussels with an interview with Giuseppe Porcaro, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum, remarking how impressive it was that three of the presidential candidates could take part in a live, televised debate and still tweet at the same time. Porcaro commended Green candidate Ska Keller as the only candidate who managed to speak the language of the young audience in Maastricht and of those following on social media. Indeed, the entire debate was a commendable feat for all four candidates, none of whom speak English as their first language, but who nevertheless crossed swords on several topics ranging from the economy and EU foreign policy, to energy security and immigration.
Young Woman to Watch
Leadarise was extra delighted to take part in the Brussels screening of the debate and the discussion afterwards, as Leadarise Young Woman to Watch Jenny de Nijs moderated post-debate discussion with Burson-Marsteller Brussels CEO David Earnshaw. De Nijs has been the driving force behind the successes of the League of Young Voters, a politically neutral initiative that aims to amplify young people’s concerns and expectations in the run-up to the European Elections. She provided post-debate analysis with David Earnshaw, who apologised for interrupting her only three times.
Disclaimer: Leadarise is entirely non-partisan. This article is meant to entertain rather than inform! For unbiased info on the European Elections: http://www.youngvoters.eu/