In a new video clip series launched in the European Commission’s Youtube channel yesterday, the first interviewee of #EUPeople was Margaritis Schinas, the Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission.
Schinas was asked about the characteristics that the next president of the European Commission will need to have. The Chief Spokesperson said that the next president “has to be a believer”, “to believe in Europe”. Schinas continued to say that “will have to rally around him or her a broader majority; I don’t think that the Commission can be partisan.” This, of course, is somewhat at odds with the ethos of the current Commission being touted from the inside as a ‘political Commission’, and of course with the system of election of the President that foresees European political parties putting forward their own candidates.
In what can be considered a not-so-subtle jab at European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Schinas said that, “The third quality of the future president; we would look for a person with some physical resistance. Because travelling all the time, shuttling around, it’s not easy…”
Yes or No?
At the end of the video, Schinas is called upon to answer a series of yes or no questions. Here is a sample:
Does Brexit mean Brexit?
Is Merkel dictating the present and future of the EU?
Is the EU doing enough regarding migration?
Is the EU banning kebaps?
– Certainly not.
Does the EU want to build a superstate?
Will the Euro be the coin used by all member states eventually?
Are we in a trade war?
Is the future of Europe, more Europe?
– That’s a difficult one…
Schinas was also asked to describe certain politicians in a few words.
He described Angela Merkel as “an anchor of stability.”
Theressa May was described as “an honest politician trying to do her best in a difficult situation.”
Vladimir Putin was described as “a strong leader but not a western leader”, while meanwhile Donald Trump was described as “a western leader but not a strong leader.”
Mr. Erdogan was described as a difficult neighbour.
On Matteo Salvini, Schinas said “democracy is always right.”
Emmanuel Macron was described as “a ray of hope”.
Angling for position?
In a period leading up to a European election – Schinas seems to be increasingly doing public appearances with a more political tone, including some appearances before the summer break.
It will be interesting to see who else appears on the #EUPeople series. The only other video launched at the same time as Schinas was an interview of Krisztina Nagy, the Head of Unit of ‘Europa Sites’ at the European Commission. This interview was far less… political than Schinas.
As an example, the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions (unlike in Schinas interview, these were described as speed-dating questions) asked to Nagy included:
Coffee or tea? Cats or dogs? 8am or 8pm? Gulash or carbonade? Budapest or Brussels? Hungarian or English? Suit or sweatshirt? Discussion or debate? Journalist or spokesperson? Decision or compromise? #mondaymotivation or #fridayfeeling? Restaurant or picnic? Being in your twenties or being in your forties? Nagy’s interview concludes with a quiz on emojis.
Of course when meeting protagonists of the European Commission through the #EUPeople videos one cannot expect to have deeply political interviews. We are, after all, talking about scripted interviews produced in-house and approved at every step of production.
The political Schinas interview contains distinct messages across several areas to be examined. It remains to be seen who else will be coming on the European Commission’s interview show, what kind of interviews we will see, and of course where they will land in the run-up to, and after the elections.