Five candidates, five views on Europe.
For the first time, the European Union’s foremost political groups each propose a candidate to lead the executive Commission.
This new democratic policy is aimed at encouraging Europeans to vote in the parliament elections, because the Commission head, in principle, will come from the group that does best in the polls.
Belgian former prime minister Guy Verhofstadt (61) represents the group of the Liberals and Democrats. He propounds a federalised, more integrated Europe.
Verhofstadt said: “If we want to solve problems like climate change, like unemployment, like bad financial products coming from the other side of the ocean, we need European cooperation, we need a European Union [that is] stronger, that can defend its model against China, against India, against the US.”
German MEP Ska Keller (32) is the sole woman candidate, joint lead candidate with Frenchman José Bové of the Greens group. Its members chose her to speak up for their ideas in candidate debates, as the voice of a younger generation of politicians.
Keller said: “What we need is really investment into the future, investment into things that society needs, like transforming our economy, making it greener so that we’re also stopping climate change.”
Luxembourg’s former prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker (59) represents Europe’s centre-right parties. He talks about his long presence at the heart of European construction, notably tackling the euro crisis.
Juncker said: “As head of the Eurogroup [Council of Finance Ministers] I amended the Stability and Growth Pact so that it does not blindly follow hardline austerity policies but takes negative economic trends into consideration. I know Europe. Those who want to shape the future must have experience. I have it.”
German leader of the European Socialists — and their candidate for Commission head — Martin Schulz (58) is also President of the European Parliament. He often criticises the bloc’s leadership and supports building a Europe that feels more accessible to its people.
Schulz said: “I want the European Union to make certain that our legislation ensures good living standards to include ordinary people as well. That is why we need common rules. What we do not need is an excess of regulation.”
Greek Alexis Tsipras (39), candidate of the European Left, is a major opponent of austerity policies in his country. He wants to fight the power of the banks, promoting a Union of increased solidarity.
Tsipras said: “We’re voting to tear down the wall of money, we’re voting to overcome the north-south division, a division that cancels the European ideal and Europe itself.”