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  • First ever European Presidential Debate

    - Turnout in elections is decreasing across Europe, and European elections are even more vulnerable to this trend, especially among young people. Tonight the first ever European Presidential Debate will be held in Maastricht where Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt and Ska Keller will fight for the youth vote.

    The debate will see the candidates for the presidency of the European Commission battle out key issues on the future of Europe. With its focus on youth issues, it is hoped that the debate will ignite young people’s interest in the European elections and encourage them to vote. The debate will be streamed live from 19:00 to 20:30 CET.

    In front of an audience of 700 young people, the candidates, Jean-Claude Juncker (European People’s Party), Martin Schulz (Party of European Socialists), Guy Verhofstadt (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party), and Ska Keller (European Green Party) will answer questions that have been gathered from thousands of young people from all over Europe. The candidates will then debate key issues such as foreign policy, the future of the EU, and youth employment.

    The debate, hosted by Maastricht University, will focus on three main themes: the European economy – crisis and growth; the future of Europe and rise of Euroscepticism; and Europe’s foreign policy role. This debate is unique both because it is the first time that all the main candidates for the Commission Presidency will meet for a televised debate, but also because of its focus on youth.

    Attract first-time voters

    Turnout in elections is decreasing across Europe, and European elections are even more vulnerable to this trend. In most EU countries, young people are the age group most likely not to vote (67% of 18-24 year olds in the 2004 European Parliament elections, and 71% in 2009). Two key factors explain this.

    First, the European institutions are often perceived as distant and are blamed for unpopular measures. Secondly, many young people do not understand the role of the European Parliament and consider voting not to be worthwhile. Furthermore, young people perceive that European politicians do not address the issues that they care about and so they do not vote.

    However, a TV debate can help shift this trend and help to engage young people in the elections. According to research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the three televised debates between party leaders in the UK in 2010 successfully attracted first-time voters and those not interested in politics.