Top candidates from the EU’s biggest political parties locked horns on Thursday for their first joint debate in the race to become the next European Commission president. The EPP’s Manfred Weber, socialist candidate Frans Timmermans, Ska Keller for the greens and Guy Verhofstadt of the liberals met in Florence to cross verbal swords on everything from environmental taxes to European armies. (You can watch the debate here.) (May 2, 2019 @FT)
No one knows if any of them will in fact claim the prize of succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker as the head of the EU’s executive arm in Brussels. The concept of Spitzenkandidaten — top candidates picked by pan-EU parties — has tepid backing from national governments, whose leaders are legally in the driving seat when it comes to nominating the commission’s leadership.
But the debate, jointly hosted by the FT and the European University Institute, laid bare the priorities of the four political families from which the next majority coalition in the European Parliament is almost certain to be drawn.
Polls indicate that it could require all four of the groups working together to regularly muster a majority in parliament after elections where the main centre-right and centre-left parties will lose ground and Eurosceptics will again perform well.