EP Presidential candidates to set out their stall in live debate

Leading candidates Tajani and Pittella

The competition to replace Martin Schulz as President of the European Parliament is heating up. Brussels-based media outlet Politico will host a six-way debate between the European Parliament’s presidential candidates this Wednesday 11 January at 18.00 CET. It can be watched via live stream on politico.eu and followed on Twitter using #EPpresident.

Originally, the handover of the EP Presidency at the half-way point through the five-year mandate should have been a smooth operation under the terms of a cosy deal signed by the then Chairs of the two largest political groups in the EP, Manfred Weber for the centre-right EPP and Martin Schulz for the centre-left S&D. However, as the transition date approached, Schulz made it clear that he would not respect the agreement and did everything to hold onto power. In the end, the EPP backbench MEPs were having none of it so the ‘grand coalition’ was effectively ended. Under this pressure, Weber finally gave in and is now finally trying to face down the Socialists.

This led, not only to EPP and S&D candidates, but virtually all other political groups in the House nominating their own candidates. For the first time in the history of the EP, there is truly an open competition to elect its President. Despite the treachery of Schulz and the S&D Group, the outcome is surely far healthier for European democracy, at this time of a crisis of confidence among citizens, than the previous back-room deals. A handy briefing note on the election procedure, as well as profiles of the candidates, has been prepared by the think tank European Policy Centre.

The candidates participating in today’s debate are:

Eleonora Forenza, European United Left-Nordic Green Left Group.
Jean Lambert, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.
Gianni Pittella, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Group.
Helga Stevens, European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
Antonio Tajani, European People’s Party Group.
Guy Verhofstadt, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe