Debate between EC Presidency candidates

Candidates for the presidency of the European Commission are currently taking part in a live debate at the European Parliament’s plenary chamber in Brussels. This debate will be the only one to bring together all the lead candidates vying to be the next President of the European Commission.

10.24PM: Closing statements

TIMMERMANS: Whatever you chose never become indifferent. If you don’t vote someone else will take your voice. Vote and let your heart speak.

WEBER: Let us defend Europe against the nationalists and egoists. Democracy is key. A democratic Europe and a strong Europe.

VESTAGER: It is important to show that we do change and to do that we need a gender-balanced commission. We need to overcome our differences and find common solutions. Voting is power. Go vote and inspire other people to vote

ZAHRADIL: In order to work together we have to find a way to sort it out and find a balance between European level and national level.

KELLER: Young people fear for their future and they turn their fear into action and we need to do the same. it needs change and courage and a strong force in the EU to fight against climate change.

CUÉ: No to fiscal fraud. Vote for gender balance. Vote for a change.

10.15PM: Increasing fear that the EU doesn’t function any more. European values are under threat. How do you explain the rise of European scepticism? What is our share or responsibility?

KELLER: There are forces that want to destroy the EU. Are we collaborating with extremist forces?

TIMMERMANS: People are voting for extremist parties That is our fault. They are now being disappointed Look what Brexit has done in the UK. The UK currently looks like Game of Thrones on steroids. We need to make them come back to the European project.

CUÉ: European unity does not exist any more. Violence against the Southern countries. We have the responsibility to change this.

WEBER: We see that nationalism is back. We have to fight against those who want to destroy our Europe. We need to make people realise that it is ‘their’ Europe. We need to defend our values.

ZAHRADIL: The main problem is that ordinary people fee that the EU is interfering in their everyday lives. I want a Europe that is doing less but better.

TIMMERMANS: In Poland there is even more support for the EU now.

VESTAGER: If you want to change things we need to change ourselves first. Use less abbreviations as people don’t appreciate them. We need to speak in a different way. We have to oblige ourselves, to tell the truth and give people real food for thought.

9.58PM: The EU in a world dominated by the US and China. In order to strike a deal with Donal Trump and to avoid damage to the European economy are you willing to open to do a deal on goods/trade?

KELLER: No, but we need to see the role the US and Europe economies should lay. Why are we sending weapons to dictators? We need to be careful what trade is done, how and for what aim.

TIMMERMANS: If we are united, we are stronger than them, But not if we are best buddies with Putin. It is in Trump’s interest to have a weak and divided Europe. Many leaders are not working in the best interests of EU citizens.

WEBER: The American people are still our friends. We have a lot in common. But what is happening in the White House is not our way of doing politics. Let’s use the trade issue to make the world a better place.

CUÉ: With all the member states the EU is the greatest trade mover and shaker in the world.

ZAHRADIL: Trade for Europe is the major engine of economic growth and we should negotiate with the US, regardless who is the President. But there are also other markets, eg Japan. We should be a pioneer of free trade.

VESTAGER: There is room for a much more confident Europe. We should have access to other markets if we give access to others. This creates millions of jobs.

9.56PM: Back at the social hub, a word cloud shows that ‘climate’ and ‘green’ are the most popular keywords. Another very popular topic is gender equality.

9.48PM: Many multinational corporations pay only marginal taxes while ordinary citizens pay more. Which countries in the Eu are tax havens and how do they change this?

VESTAGER: Some companies pay 0.5%. There is indeed work to do. We need digital taxation. Malta is mentioned, as is Ireland.

KELLER: I hope change is coming. This is a serious scandal. We need a minimum tax rate for companies and more transparency.

TIMMERMANS: We are in the fourth industrial revolution. Big companies have found a way to evade taxes.

ZAHRADIL: I believe that states have the right to tax businesses, but the EU is not a state. Of course, tax evasion should be forbidden.

CUÉ: I think the EU should have a say in this. Tax evasion is rampant and needs to be corrected. A financial scandal.

WEBER: It must be clear that everyone has to pay. We need a common European role.

9.34PM: Environment and climate change. Do you think we have to make sacrifices in order to protect the planet. What would you do more, and less?

KELLER: Millions of jobs can be created (eg) building high-speed rails to connect Europe. A lot of the technology we need we have already. Each and every one of us can take part through our personal choices.

VESTAGER: We take this issue very seriously. We only have one planet and we have to protect it. The good thing is we know what to do. We just need to do them. And that has been a problem. Would stop subsidies going to the wrong things. Climate change is so much bigger than all of us.

TIMMERMANS: Let’s work together in the next five years so the climate crisis is on the top of the agenda. Tax kerosene. Introduce a CO2 tax. We have to act now.

ZAHRADIL: We have to do this in a socially sustainable way and gradually. Let’s not have unrealistic targets. More subsidised organic farming.

CUÉ: We need to listen to the youths. What about multinationals which are responsible for so much pollution? They are contributing to climate change.

WEBER: We would like to achieve an EU which is carbon neutral. How do we achieve this? There will be job losses in certain industries. It will hurt pensioners and poor people. We need concrete actions.

9.32PM: Social Media stage – thousands of people are getting involved. #TellEurope has been mentioned over 7000 times. People are voting for climate change and keeping democracy going, amongst other issues. Migration has also provoked a very heated discussion.

9.20PM: Youth and Employment. How would you try to bring the more than 3.3 million young Europeans into jobs?

ZAHRADIL: EC should create a business-friendly environment, such as Digital Europe and other schemes. Tailor-made solutions for each country.

WEBER: Countries which are doing well economically can only continue to do well if we create jobs in the South. A good economic policy including infrastructure and research is a solution.

CUÉ: Politics are ineffectual in this instance. Minimum wage needs to be revised. Stop zero hour contracts.

VESTAGER: European countries have come together to make sure that in every country there is training. No job means no future. We need to invest in a strong economy. But a lot of these jobs don’t pay very well. You need to be paid well for a full-time job. Different countries have different systems. Together with member states, we can solve it.

TIMMERMANS: Let’s expand Erasmus to every young person in Europe. Make sure that is a minuteman wage which is on average 60% of the average wage. Lower the voting age to 16 years.

KELLER: Austerity measures in Europe have done great damage. A big mistake.  Tackling unemployment is crucial. Investing in the green economy will create many jobs.

9.14PM: Given the tensions about migration would you as a commission president how would you solve the problem?

ZAHRADIL: Never introduce mandatory quota. We should find other solutions and respect the sovereign powers of countries.

WEBER: We have to fight human trafficking and smuggling and outsource reception centre other of the EU. Strict border control.

CUÉ: European responsibility is very important but must be reviewed. This is not a European invasion.

VESTAGER: The important thing is to treat the long-term solution with the same urgency as saving lives at sea. We cannot have people coming and going without knowing. We need a common asylum system

TIMMERMANS: Every time a person dies in the Mediterranean, Europe loses a bit of its soul. You have to take care of the people. Shouldn’t put fines on people rescuing them like the Italian government. Solidarity is the key.

KELLER: We stand clearly for European solidarity and support the communities. People drowning is unacceptable. Everyone is passing the buck.

9.12PM: Questions have been pouring in on Twitter and other social media. Popular topics are Brexit, climate change, digital privacy and migration.

9.06PM: Opening statements by all candidates. Topics include a European Commission for the people, women’s rights, fair prices for consumers, the rule of law, a Europe for the people, minimum wage, wage equality between men and women and the reformation of Europe.

9.05PM: Each candidate will have one minute to answer each question, as well as two rebuttals.

9.04PM: You can use the hashtag #TellEurope to make your voice heard.

9.03PM: The candidates are introduced: Nico CUÉ, European Left (EL), Ska KELLER, European Green Party (EGP), Jan ZAHRADIL, Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE), Margrethe VESTAGER, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Manfred WEBER, European People’s Party (EPP), Frans TIMMERMANS, Party of European Socialists (PES).

9.00PM: The candidates are in the hemicycle ready to begin. Live from the European Parliament where the six candidates will make their pitch for EP President. Introduction of the debate by Emilie Tran Nguyen, France Televisions, and Markus Preiss, ARD Germany, moderators.