Written by Filippo Brunner; with the kind help of Thilo Buchholz and Martin de Groote.
On the 29th of April, the Maastricht Debate took place at the Theater aan het Vrijthof in the heart of Maastricht. On this occasion we had the opportunity to see five of the Spitzenkandidaten competing for becoming the next President of the European Commission. The Debate has been conducted by Rianne Letschert (Rector of the Maastricht University) and Ryan Heath (Political editor of Politico Europe).
Some very fortunate members of JEF Maastricht were able to see the Debate live!
The Candidates present came from the Party of the European Left (Violeta Tomić), European Green Party (Bas Eickhout), Party of European Socialists (Frans Timmermans), Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and the Alliances of Conservatists (Guy Verhofstadt) and Reformists in Europe (Jan Zahradil).
One of the largest European Party; the European People’s Party (Manfred Weber) was not present at the Maastricht Debate. As the Jonge Europese Federalisten, we think that this was a wasted opportunity to bring Europe closer to the people.
However, we see with great pleasure that last week, on the 15th of May, the EPP and Manfred Weber participated at the Spitzenkandidaten debate, which took place in the European Parliament.
Nonetheless, our members were highly enthusiastic about the Debate! We organised different Events with great follow-up throughout the Netherlands. Here below we collected a few impressions by our members.
“I was positively surprised by the constructive debate. But what really stood out to me was that at this debate, young people’s questions were actually heard live in the room – and not only in some abstract consultation. The Maastricht Debate could provide at least the impression that politicians were not only talking about young people, but actually with the youth. But what will count now and in the following five years is to make them stick to their promises and keep them engaged with young people from all over Europe – and not only a lucky handful of university students from Maastricht!” – Thilo Buchholz (President of JEF Maastricht).
‘We want to expand knowledge about the upcoming elections and about the EU in general. Also, we hope to get students to engage in discussions about what we want with Europe. Personally, I think this debate helped with that: it was a good debate, with constructive arguments coming from all sides.’ – Jonathan Nilsson (Vice-president of JEF Enschede).
“Mainly, I came to this debate to get to know the candidates. I knew some of these faces already, but some are also new to me. Also, I wanted to know how the candidates positioned themselves. Still, it was a bit vague: at moments, candidates did not explicit what they wanted.” – Martin Wasser (Member of JEF Enschede).
We would like to express our esteem for Ine Tollenaers, president of JEF Belgium for having asked the Spitzenkandidaten live, “What is your boldest idea for the future of Europe?”.
Finally, we hope that the debates have been interesting and thrilling for everyone and that also the European parties recognised how important these debates were for both Europe and its youth.
We wish all the candidates the best of luck, in the hope that a stronger Europe will emerge!
Go vote for Europe!