“Does the European Union have a future?” That was the main question during the BNR radio programme entitled “The World” (De Wereld). During the live broadcast from EUR’s Forumzaal conference room, it gradually transpired that the answers to this question were all about one man, especially as far as the students were concerned. And remarkably enough, that one man was not Frans Timmermans, the guest of honour and first vice-president of the European Commission.

Video made during the broadcast from the Forumzaal conference room. Source: www.youtube.com

Presenter Bernard Hammelburg came straight to the point at the start of the broadcast. He asked Timmermans whether Trump is really going to change anything for Europe. “After the Brexit, Trump’s election is a new challenge,” the man nicknamed “the European” replied optimistically. And so the trend was set in the debate, which did not attract a large crowd.

Hand towels

De studenten luisteren aandachtig. Image credit: Rick Keus

Timmermans has a low opinion of the new president of the United States. “Once the dust has settled at the White House, when he has finally found the light switches at the White House and once he has ensured that the hand towels aboard Air Force One are soft enough, he, too, will come to realise that every country participates in NATO out of self-interest,” the European Commissioner, a member of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA), stated.

The debate also touched on subjects like the global financial crisis, the refugee crisis and Timmermans’ famous speech about MH17. He seized upon a question about the latter to emphasise the authenticity of his speech at the UN. “I honestly had no idea I was being recorded,” he assured the students with a disarming expression.

New generations

Tussendoor was er de mogelijkheid vragen te stellen aan Frans Timmermans. Image credit: Rick Keus

Timmermans answered a question on the separation of powers with the following statement: “In a democracy today’s minority will be tomorrow’s majority,” which was a reference to the importance of new generations, e.g. students. “Thinking outside the box is innate in you. You hold the reins,” he concluded.

Unfortunately, the debate was no more than a Q&A. There was no actual debate. However, there were a few students who were bold enough to criticise Timmermans. “Who do you think you’re fooling, Mr Timmermans?”