Yesterday night was the third debate between the candidates to the European Commission’s Presidency, broadcasted in all Europe. A performance to which politicians will have to get used if they hope to get the job one day. But what does the backstage of a Presidential debate looks like from inside the European Parliament’s chamber?
Well, it looks like a Presidential debate seen from inside the European Parliament’s chamber. Meaning hundreds of people all connected in one way or another to European affairs, who gather there just like they would gather at a cocktail party. Before the debate began, the room was slowly getting crowded. Journalists congratulating each other for their last article, politics discussing current affairs, lobbyists reminding people of their existence and interns or students hoping to get their future job. You also have of course partycrashers squatting the press’ seats or front row, even though they don’t have an invitation…
Everyone is there for the same reason: networking. No one cares about the debate. You could’ve watched it from your couch, a beer in one hand and your favorite sweatshirt on. No need to keep your suit or high heels on until 11pm (or more if you stayed to chat afterwards) to judge the candidates’ performance. Which proves that this was not the reason why everyone was there. But in a world where contacts are even more necessary than anywhere else, you need to show your face. And you better look good, if possible. Yesterday night, the European Parliament in Brussels was thus The place to be.
Want another proof? During the first part of the debate (the one about economics, ironically) most of the audience wasn’t paying attention. Smartphones, tablets and PCs were the real stars. Of course for journalists covering the event it’s understandable. But for the others, judging by the look in their eyes (when they were not falling asleep), you could feel that the pretty speeches of the candidates were not motivating them…
Special mention at least to the supporters, the real ones. You could almost picture yourself at a football game. From the moment the candidates came in, to strong declarations and boos to Jean-Claude Juncker’s answers (twice, and only to him!), the fans played “Who’s the loudest?” during the whole discussion. Enthusiastic applauds on the side of political parties (giving rhythm to their candidate’s speeches of course) filled the room during the debate. Add to that T-shirts and banners with political colors and the only thing missing were the hot-dogs!
At the end of the broadcast, everyone rushed to the exit to get interviews and business cards, debrief the discussion and, for the lucky ones, join the reception on the upper floor (because yes networking is accepted, but more than anywhere you don’t mix anyone with, well anyone, for too long).
All in all, if watching the debate was the only thing you wanted, it was not worth the trip. The living room TV was good enough for that. However, if the goal was to make contacts or develop some relationships in order to get something, then yes, it was the right place. And if you missed your chance on this one, you can always take comfort in the fact that there will be other events like that.
French version on Tuner.be
Picture: © E.Y.