+++ Live-Review TV-Debate +++

#telleurope

30 broadcasters, 90 minutes, 5 candidates: The first television debate in the European Parliamentary Elections for the top candidates.

The candidates: Alexis Tsipras (Left, left above), Jean-Claude Juncker (Conservatives, right above), Martin Schulz (Social Democrats, left), Ska Keller (Greens) und Guy Verhofstadt (Liberals). Bild: dpa

10.50: Conclusion

Taz experts offer their own impressions of the debate, none of which seem to ring with positive remarks.

Barbara Oertel, the Eastern Europe expert at taz, says that the Ukraine issue wasn’t even touched upon. „All of them showed pure helplessness.”

Jan Feddersen, a taz editor, tries to put a hopeful spin to the conversation. „At least there was a lot more content in their speeches than with most of your run-of-the-mill daily talk shows. The translations however, proved quite confusing. We’ll have to get used to that, of course. That was a splendid performance.”

We broadcast the television debate in the taz-café in Berlin. Andreas Rüttenauer, Ulrike Winkelmann, Jan Feddersen, Barbara Oertel, Doris Akrap, Deniz Yücel, Una Hajdari, Paul Wrusch und Daniél Kretschmar will comment. Jannis Papdimitriou reports from Athens.

You will find the Live-Review in German here.

10.41: Wavering interests

Tsipras is the only one to attack the „Troika”. In general, a good appearance on his side. A shame, that he avoided past debates. Or was the his appearance for the Communist Party of Bohemia more important than him participating in the first debate with the top candidates on April 28th?

Ralf Sotschek from Dublin gives his closing remarks: I got the strong urge to switch to another channel, to a local football game. Which proved to be just as uninteresting (the teams were tied 0:0). So back to the European debate, just in time to hear the moderator say „Your time has run out.” Does this apply to all of the candidates? But now in all honesty: the time limit and the Joker, which reminded one of a game of Canasta, was tiring. The viewer is forced to painfully push the keywords down his throat, and wait for the other candidate. I need to go to a pub now.

10.40: Now what?

One must notice that this media and speech experiment proved to be quite a good reflection of the way the European democracy is run. Maximum communicative effort, and minimal level of enlightenment.

The bigger the effort of the politicians to well-meaningly phrase their political intentions, the greater the confusion is that ensues. What exactly do they want to tell us?

The arguments themselves don‘t resonate with clarity, and they‘re even less convincing. They‘re broken down to keywords, to mere impressions. At the same, the country-specific problems persist, and each and every member state knows what they are. Much wasn‘t said to make sense of them.

Rudolf Balmer, our man in Paris, chimes in: The short statements do not allow for the candidates to develop a clear program, much less to go into detail and explain it. Was this the intention? What remains are soundbites that will be repeated, no rhetorical insights. When Tsipras says that the true deficit in Europe is the lack of democracy, or when Verhofstadt reads out a letter sent in by Kasparow about the power struggle in Uraine, there is little that one can grasp from it. The candidates seem to have participated in something that was more of a quiz show rather than true political debate. Keller, as the only one to break a smile, leaves more of an optimistic trace. Juncker on the other hand seems as if he was forced to deliver a eulogy, as he seems sad and tormented. Next to him, Verhofstadt seems clown-like, moving around a lot and gesticulating with his hands. For the French viewers among us, the entire thing receives an even larger level of monotony, as the dreary and disinterested voice of the translator drones on. Most of them changed the channel after a couple of minutes.

10.20: Strength and a Zinger

Schulz shows strength. If any of the others is proposed as the European Commission president, then the EU parliament will definitely vote against it. He shows confidence. He can now look himself in the mirror, and know that he is the next European Commission president. However, the ruling coalition in Germany could fall apart. That does excite us a little.

Juncker could have made a stronger appearance, breaking the choice down between him and Schulz. He hinted towards the Lisbon Accords, and that the governments should listen to the parliament. Which in itself makes clear that they should look for a completely different candidate.

Athens: Verhofstadt couldn‘t care less. He‘s going to head the EU Parliament anyway.

Vienna: Will one of the fivesome become head of the European Commission? We all agree on that. The parliament would go bankrupt if Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Hollande need to come up with another candidate.

Now Juncker brings out the true statesman. He even becomes a bit sentimental. „We have to fall in love with Europe,“ he says. Jacques Delores warned us about this: You cannot fall in love in an internal market.

Tsipras switches to participatory dialogue. Interesting. Schulz takes over.

Verhofstadt plays around with the limited seconds he has at his disposal. But what else would one expect from a Liberal? Other than shouting out: jobs, jobs, jobs!

10:19: Missed Opportunities

Is the Green Ska Keller the only one to use her Jokers? Quite smart from the youngest one in the fivesome. She leave her Green content long behind. That politicians could spend some time in a kiddie pool before switching to commerce and industry, could definitely have fit into a minute.

Tsipras misses the point two, but once again brings up the fight against tax evasion and the mafia.

Verhofstadt as the liberal, has of course, never heard of lobbyists. The attack on the national capitals? Ping. Spot on.

10.15: Participation and Apathy

Now it‘s really becoming interesting: Why do the European citizens lack interest, and why is participation in the elections so low?

Ska Keller arguments, that this isn‘t disinterest at play. Rather this could be interpreted as mistrust, one directed towards the EU institutions. Populism Alarm!

Verhofstadt tries to pull out for more pro-European arguments. He finds them in the economy, as is expected. He brings up the protection of individual privacy (HAH! NSA has finally been brought up. Was about time). A stronger Europe, that‘s his main argument.

Schulz speaks of previous elections, saying that they were relatively uneventful. He believes however, that this round would be different.

Tsipras hits the nail on the head! The 28 EU states are doing exactly what Mrs Merkel asks of them. This itself, is the problem. Tsipras falls back on his expected game.

A point for the Liberals. Verhofstadt is good, he criticizes the EU‘s dependency on Berlin and Paris, showing similarities with Tsipras. Other than that, he brings up proper Liberal topics for the first time: Data and Privacy Protection.

10.05: Against the rollback

Religious symbols lead to a spike in the debate. Ska Keller promotes a relativist approach, taking an easy way out.

Tsipras stays against it. He will fight against the conservative rollback, and try to halt the tidal wave of anti-abortionist that have swept Europe.

Verhofstadt‘s attacks on, well, basically everyone liken him to a living pinball machine (probably rings a bell only amongst the older ones amongst us). Sometimes he hits the target, and sometimes his ball falls down the gutter. The seconds spent on this speech should have been given to someone else.

10.00: Separatists and time limits

The biggest problem with this debate is that due to the time crunch, and running simultaneous translation, the debate has become frustrating rather than challenging. One is actually judging the translators, and not the politicians themselves. As true Europeans, however, this is something we need to get used to.

Onto the debate topics themselves: Even if Verhofstadt were more concrete, we wouldn’t understand him. What exactly did Barroso do wrong in Catalonia? How dearly the viewers would wish to know that.

Verhofstadt gets his first sympathy point. He request higher protective measures for Syrian war refugees in Europe.

How can it be that all candidates are for the legal immigration and that nothing has happened? All candidates have proved this point.

So either none of the European politicians have anything to say, or they’re carelessly flip-flopping on the debate podium. Yes, you guessed right: Juncker.

Athens: When he’s right, he’s right. Tsipras says that Dublin II needs to be reformed.

9.50: Messages on financial policies

Tsipras reminds us that the Left doesn‘t want to dissolve Europe, but rather, save it. One prejudice goes down the drain.

Schulz, once again, is the most concrete of them all. As if he had some form of argument-condenser, an argument shrinker!

Verhofstadt defends the Euro, because it diminishes the competition between the currencies. How original for a Liberal.

But it is quite unlikely that any European citizen could find himself in this debate, or find themselves amongst these party representatives.

9.45: Blue eyes and banks

Whoa, Juncker is finally riled up: His defense of the bank bailout flows easily. No one wanted to risk the currency system with that. His anger, geared towards the criticism of the management of the 2008-2010 crisis is convincing.

„We didn‘t bail out the banks because the bankers had pretty blue eyes,“ he says. Redundancies are apparent in the speeches of the candidates.

Verhofstadt‘s body language is quite tense, possibly aggressive. He holds up his index finger threateningly.

Tsipras does not speak in English, but rather in Greek. A smart decision on his side. He dodges a question from Verhofstadt, relating to his party‘s management of the bank crisis in Greece.

Our correspondent from Greece chimes in: „When are they going to start singing? The European fight-singing last weekend was much more exciting.“

9.30: Points for Green

All right, of course all of us want to invest in new, young and future markets. We get that. We also know that the money needs to come from somewhere, and that new loans are definitely not good.

Finally! Ska Keller makes her first good point. The banks are mainly to blame for Spain‘s debt. One cannot force the citizens to pay that.

9.25: The tension is rising

Berlin. taz-café: The conditions: hardcore! Each candidate has a minute for the opening statements. The first point goes to Social Democrat Martin Schulz. He sympathetically points to the differences between men and women. Guy Verhofstadt, the Liberal, is quite boring with „Europe at the Crossroads“ (Although this might be a translation problem). Alexis Tsipras is the box of surprises for this evening, because he has been a relative TV newbie at this point. Especially the Left in Europe is excited for his appearance.

The way the debate is set up draws the public in. Tense, harsh conditions and a clear structure. Will definitely become much more interesting than the Eurovision Song Contest. Annoying however, is the camera movement. Nobody needs that.

09:21: Youth Unemployment and Radicalism

Ulrike Winkelmann: „This minute time limit is quite frustrating,“ she says. Candidates fall apart as their answers are strictly limited.

Otherwise? Ska Keller once again forgets the Green content of her speeches, Tsipras remains quite general and Schulz spends an overwhelmingly large portion of his this speaking from a middle ground, for a Social Democrat. Even the middle-grounders must be annoyed.

Athens: General rambling seems to be the theme, coupled with parallel monologues. Sadly so. Ska Keller seems to be making a dramatic impression.

9.15: Opening statements

Verhofstadt: „This time it‘s true,“ he says. These elections are crucial, because we can only properly battle climate change and unemployment together. With all good will, one can see the liberal elements in Verhofstadt‘s speech.

Juncker: He makes clear that he wants to see a strong Europe, joined against Russia. After China, already the second opponent.

Tsipras: The Greek candidate speaks of the tragedy of his country, that stands as an example for the consequences of austerity politics. A clear left profile. The translator, however, has stumbled starting with the first sentence. Not good.

Schulz: He was able to, successfully, unveil a maximally socialdemocratic stance within his minute.

Keller: Surprisingly enough, the top Green candidate finishes her opening statement without any expected Green elements out.

This is the first Europe-wide televised debate for the top candidates in the European Parliamentary Elections. Jean-Claude Juncker (Conservative), Martin Schulz (Social Democrats), Ska Keller (Greens), Guy Verhofstadt (Liberals) and Alexis Tsipras (Left) delve into the discussion starting at 9 pm.

20.30: The Background

The European Broadcasting Union is organizing the 90-minute debate, which will be moderated by journalist Monica Maggioni from the Italian TV channel RAI. More than 30 channels from all over Europe are going to offer a live broadcast of the debate. In Germany, this will be offered by the ARD/ZDF specialty channel Phoenix.

In the lead-up to the debate, people were against the decision by ARD and ZDF to show the debate in their smaller specialty channel, instead of showing it in prime time. This because ZDF organizes its own debate focusing specifically on Juncker and Schulz. A petition was drawn up against this, emphasizing the importance of such a debate reaching a wider audience.

Viewers are encouraged to take an active role by tuning into the debate and sharing their opinions via social media. You can share your thoughts and comments, and even direct questions to the candidates. Just make sure to include the following hashtag: #telleurope.

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