The list of Spitzenkandidaten now stands at six and with a panel of up to nine Liberal leaders still to be nominated it will require a reinforced stage to hold the candidate debates. Broadcasters no doubt will want to focus on the head to head between the two leading candidates, the EPP’s Manfred Weber and the Socialists’ Frans Timmermans, but the smaller groups will all demand to be heard, not least the Liberals who will be seeking one of the top jobs on offer.

The Liberals will only choose their panel of candidates in February and will have to find some formula for working out who attends what debate. Speculation is rife as to who will be on that list and who in particular En Marche (LREM) will put forward as their candidate. That will give us our first glimpse at how the future cooperation between the ALDE group and LREM will work in practice.

The Greens joint ticket of Ska Keller and Bas Eickhout is no surprise and both are effective communicators. They can’t realistically expect any of the top jobs to go their way and for them the candidate debates will be all about getting their message across and influencing the programme adopted by a future EPP/S&D/ALDE pro-European majority.

The debates should at least be spiced up by some competing visions on the future of Europe. In 2014 this was left to Alexis Tsipras but he never seemed to be fully engaged in the process and his poor English made debating rather stilted. His former colleague Yanis Varoufakis now takes up the mantle, standing as a candidate in Germany for the new party Democracy in Europe (DiEM2025) under the banner “European Spring”.  The former Greek Finance Minister has managed to cultivate star status and despite representing a tiny new party he could end up dominating debates with his stark message “The EU will be democratized or it will disintegrate”.

A scaled back vision of Europe will also be given by the ECR’s candidate, Czech MEP Jan Zahradil, who sets his goal as winning back the public’s trust. “Whether labelled Europhiles, Euosceptics, populists or extremists, they are all taxpayers directly paying for the construction of the EU, and they all deserve to be listened to equally”.

The debates would be even more lively if candidates from the far right or left decided to run. Imagine the fireworks if we had a Matteo Salvini or Jean-Luc Mélenchon on stage.