Richard Quest: the EU is a wobbly house

Skrevet af Sebastian DammFelix Kasperek, translation - Foto: Anders Meldgård Kjemtrup - 6. august 2013 - 12:540 kommentarer
CNN host Richard Quest doesn’t mind turning to the bottles (Coke and club soda, though), when illustrating a point – especially about the EU.

The hyper-energetic CNN host Richard Quest visited CBS recently. In an event that thematically focused on Europe’s challenges, Danish Minister of Finance Bjarne Corydon (S) was grilled and a panel of experts was quizzed on Europe’s way out of the crisis.

Showmanship and intensity in CNN event
Every weekday, Richard Quest is the host of the CNN show ‘Quest Means Business’, watched by millions of viewers across the globe. The 51 year old Liverpool-born TV-host has through a number of years built a reputation as one of the most lively and brash personalities in international TV.

On May 28th 2013, Quest visited CBS for a day of talking Europe – an interview with a minister and after that, a panel debate in Solbjerg Plads’ biggest auditorium.

Here, Richard Quest was the energy-filled center of a tête-á-tête with Minister of Finance Bjarne Corydon and later a quizzing of a panel of experts consisting of Kristian Madsen (Politiken), Mads Madsen (Novozymes), Jørn Tolstrup Rohde (Carlsberg) and CBS’ own Susana Borrás (Head of the Department of Business & Politics).

Alpha-male Tango with Corydon
The meeting between Denmark’s laconic Minister of Finance and CNN’s excitable star-host was like witnessing a tango where both dancers wanted to lead. Richard Quest charmingly teased the minister with the bad results the government has been getting in the polls and their ‘right-wing’ financial policies.

Bjarne Corydon defended himself, in excellent English and very politician-like, and explained that the government’s policies were economically necessary… and that politics are never perfect, but rather something you muddle through.

The Minister of Finance’s most prominent points of course led to more snide remarks from the brash TV-host.

Panel debate that included the audience
In the debate that followed, Richard Quest brought in the audience, using ‘clickers’ and questions from the audience.

The panel discussed Turkey’s admittance to EU (not going to happen), whether sustainable growth is in decline (not before 2015) and whether Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt will become President of the European Commission (highly unlikely).
1-on-1 with Richard Quest

After the riveting performance CBS OBSERVER sat down with Richard Quest; the interviewer would become the interviewee and some concrete views would be brought to the table.

The task was easier than expected, since the familiar-from-TV torrent of words wasn’t in any way weakened by being on the other side of the table.

We allow ourselves to bring you the interview in its unedited form:

Danish consensus-culture and wobbly EU
OBSERVER: Welcome to Denmark. Which differences do you experience by an event like this being held in Denmark, as opposed to another European country?

Quest: You Danes are so damn consensus-oriented and polite. If you look at the points of view presented by the audience (e.g. a positive attitude towards the EU in spite of the crisis), you Danes have, in the name of agreeing, an impressive acceptance of the status quo.

Especially the younger generation that was represented today should be indignant about all of EU’s negatives, as well as the fact that my generation’s left you with a humongous bill to pay, after the crisis.

But instead, you’re so damn understanding and consensus-seeking. It’s probably the same reason that you can’t tell the political left from right in this country.

OBSERVER: Like, for example, our Minister of Finance who you accused of being a conservative in disguise.

Exactly! He’s part of the Social Democrat party, but his policies are undoubtedly more liberal/conservative than the previous government’s.

OBSERVER: But his argument that the policies are necessary is sound though, right?

Quest: Yeah, I suppose it is to some degree, but there’s very few other places in the world where you see such a ‘de-idiologicalization’ of the policies.

You could actually argue that Denmark’s current government is quite courageous for the politics it leads, but it’s not smart from a tactical point of view, since they won’t be reelected.

OBSERVER: And thereby we get a political process like the one Bjarne Corydon described, where politics are muddled through?

Quest: Yes, and I just don’t get how your generation can be satisfied with that! We have an EU that’s either fallen asleep or is falling apart, depending on the way you look at it.
Is that good enough? Is muddling through the world really the best that your generation can demand from your leaders? I sure don’t think so.

OBSERVER: But it just proves the famous words of Otto von Bismarck about politics being the art of what’s possible, doesn’t it?

Quest: I don’t agree with that. The central point of EU as a project is that it listens to the wishes of the citizens. The most central point! If EU as a whole doesn’t reflect the wishes and worries of its citizens, the whole project is off the rails.
Today, the EU’s like a wobbly house with crooked walls, a leaking roof and plugged up plumbing. Additionally, the problem of is that my idea of a house is a French villa, yours is a big mansion and other peoples’ ideas are different too.

Soda bottles and EU’s future
At this point in the interview, Richard Quest kicks it into overdrive. Almost manically he starts gathering the bottles of refreshments that have been provided and starts lining them up, in seemingly a random pattern.

- Alright, look. This is Great Britain over here; he says and points to a bottle:

- The Scandinavian countries are over here and a country like Turkey is over here. How on Earth do you get all these different players to agree on anything? They have absolutely no common idea of what to do!

OBSERVER: One way could be a stronger federal EU?

Quest: Yeah, you’re probably right about that. José Manuel Barroso (the current president of the European Commission), who I by the way consider a reasonably and sympathetic man, has on several occasions told me that more federalism is the only way for EU.

OBSERVER: And on a more practical level, it’s also about exploiting the possibilities of the economical collaboration inherent in the EU, e.g. more transnational public-private-partnerships in the EU? Or by removing the limitations on semi-public investments?

Quest: Definitely, there are lots of tools in the toolbox. One of the great things by setting up an event like today’s, is that a news organization like CNN, whose role it is to pressure people to take a stand, can be combined with an institution like CBS, where the leaders of tomorrow get their education.

This way, we can make sure that the leaders of tomorrow are involved, enlightened and as prepared as possible to tackle the huge challenges that lie ahead when my generation retires.

Next Quest – Sweden and Stockholm
With these words, we rounded off our interview. After having finished the club soda that respresented Great Britain, Richard Quest left.

The next victim of his quizzing is Stockholm, that like Copenhagen is unlikely to forget about the hyper-energetic TV host’s big personality, sharp questions, and – when the format allows it – opinions.