Fight night in Brussels. The five rivals for Europe’s top job went head to head for the first time in a TV debate on Thursday.
The wannabe Commission Presidents battled it out over topics ranging from immigration to the economic crisis.
Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament and representing the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats said: “In those countries where the unemployment rate is highest, small and medium enterprises, have no access to credit. Banks are getting money from the ECB with 0.25% interest and they are not investing in the real economy. They are once more speculating.”
Once dubbed the rising star of the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras appealed to those frustrated with rising taxes and spending cuts: “If we want to get out from this crisis we have to invest in development and social cohesion, we have to stop with austerity,” he said.
Centre-right candidate Jean-Claude Juncker hedged his bets on trade as the answer to Europe’s economic woes: “If we conclude a free trade agreement with the United States, every European household is going to earn 545 euros extra.”
The TV debates form part of the campaigning for the European parliament elections on May 22. Although the public cannot directly elect one of the five candidates, the result of the vote must be taken into account when appointing the new Commission president, likely to be decided at an EU summit at the end of June.