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TV debate on the European elections with gaps

News and background

European elections 2024

In a TV debate, the European top candidates for the European elections defended their positions on security, migration and prosperity. Politicians from right-wing parties did not take part.

Sabrina Fritz

The EBU, which hosted the debate, also broadcasts the Eurovision Song Contest. At times it was a bit reminiscent of the music competition, as the broadcasts kept switching to individual cities, for example to Berlin on the Phoenix channel.

ask for Security spending

It was mainly young Europeans who were able to ask questions – some of them first-time voters. Europe's security was an issue that concerned young people. One question was whether the money should now be spent on our own security rather than on Ukraine.

Walter Baier, the leading candidate of the Left Party in Austria, pointed out that NATO is already spending 1.3 trillion euros on its defense. That is more than China and Russia combined.

In contrast, the current President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stressed that Ukraine is also defending Europe's security: “Ukraine is defending our values, so we must support Ukraine first, but at the same time increase our defense.” And Terry Reintke, the Green Party's top candidate, declared the rise of right-wing populists and their proximity to Russia to be the greatest danger to Europe.

Representatives of the right-wing parties were absent from the TV debate.

Right-wing parties without Top candidates

The news of the day, that the AfD had been excluded from its group in the EU Parliament, was not included in the debate. Representatives of the right-wing parties were absent because they had not nominated any top candidates. Nevertheless, the way to deal with the right was discussed.

Von der Leyen had to explain to what extent she was prepared to work with the right-wing conservative parties. The CDU politician once again mentioned the following criteria: The parties had to be pro-Europe, pro-Ukraine and pro-constitutional. “If you look at the Rassemblement National or the AfD, they all have something in common: They are friends of Putin and they want to destroy Europe,” she said.

Emotional discussion about the migration pact

It was a lively and intense debate with around 900 guests in the studio. They spoke out particularly when it came to the role of the EU in the Gaza Strip. The migration pact was also discussed emotionally. Nicolas Schmit, the Social Democrats' top candidate, contradicted the theory that the migration pact would primarily put a stop to people smugglers and criminals: “What is happening to the refugees (in Tunisia), who are driven into the desert, beaten, some killed, these are not European values. This is an agreement with a dictator.”

Security, migration and prosperity – these were the topics that the 100-minute debate revolved around. Prosperity and climate protection should not be mutually exclusive and an expansion to include other countries would be desirable, said Sandro Gozi of the Liberals: “Of course we want to open the EU to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine,” he said.

The representatives of the other parties were also able to go along with this. It seemed that compromises could be made between the five leading candidates. But the troublemakers were – as I said – not there.

Sabrina Fritz, Tagesschau, 23.05.2024 18:39

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