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Live viewing ‘Spitzenkandidaten’-debate

On 29 April a live viewing event was held on the Spanish Stairs at the Wijnhaven building in The Hague broadcasting the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ debate held at the Theatre at the Vrijthof in Maastricht. The debate between the lead candidates of the European political parties for the presidency elections of the European Committee was organised by Dutch student organisation BIL.

The leader of the political party that wins the European Elections on 23 May will mostly likely become President of the European Committee. The atmosphere during the debate proved that the participants were very aware of the stakes. The moderators set the tone for the debate with a comment about Mr Manfred Weber of the European Peoples’ Party – the biggest party in the European Parliament – who was notably absent. Had he truly been afraid to enter into a debate in the lion’s den, Maastricht, birthplace of his biggest political opponent Mr Frans Timmermans? Whatever the reason for his cancellation, Frans Timmermans (representative of the Party of European Socialists) was the undisputed victor according to people following the debate online and participating in the online voting during and after the debate. The debate centred around themes important to today’s youth, with special attention given to the digital economy, sustainability, and the future of Europe.

Reflection by Tom de Bruijn

At the end of the debate, Tom de Bruijn, former Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the European Union, was present at the Spanish Stairs to discuss the outcomes. De Bruijn criticized several candidates (such as Guy Verhofstad, one of the members of the liberal party in the European Parliament) but also praised Frans Timmermans and Bas Eikchout ( a member of the Green Party) for their performances during the debate. A discussion was held with the audience about the role of the European Parliament as opposed to that of national parliaments and what to do about the democratic deficit in the European Union. Nobody was able to come up with a definitive solution but the election debate between the leaders of several European political parties did help to shine a light on the solutions proposed by politicians to bridge the gap between citizens and the European Union or, alternatively, solutions to minimise European integration to provide member states with more space to determine their own policies.

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