European Commission presidency candidates debate ahead of Euro elections

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Top contenders for the presidency of the European Commission engaged in a live debate in Maastricht, Netherlands, on Monday alongside outgoing President Ursula von der Leyen. 

This debate marks the first time the lead candidates, or Spitzenkandidaten, confront each other’s projects ahead of the elections to the European Parliament in early June.

Organizers state the debate aims to “present Europe’s top candidates for the Commission presidency, who represent key party groups.” 

The Maastricht debate, co-hosted by Politico Europe and Studio Europa, also features lead candidates Nicolas Schmit (Party of European Socialists), Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party), Bas Eickhout (European Green Party), Anders Vistisen (Identity and Democracy Party), Walter Baier (Party of the European Left), Maylis Rossberg (European Free Alliance) and Valeriu Ghiletchi (European Christian Political Movement) on stage.

Following European elections on June 9, one of the first tasks of a new intake of MEPs is to elect the next President of the European Commission after the candidate has been nominated by the European Council.

In her address during the debate, candidate and current President Von der Leyen emphasized the significance of individual votes, urging voters not to delegate their choices to others. “Your vote counts,” she underscored, advocating for unity and a robust Europe.

Meanwhile, Schmit, candidate for the Party of European Socialists, stressed the necessity of providing security for all Europeans, stating, “We owe you real security, good jobs, a good environment and a secure Europe.” 

Additionally, Vistisen of the Identity and Democracy Party vowed to candidly address the EU’s perceived shortcomings, stating, “I will tell the truth about the EU’s disastrous course.”

Eickhout, lead candidate for the European Greens, questioned whether Ursula von der Leyen is committed to the Green Deal highlighting the need for genuine action to ensure European competitiveness and climate action.

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