European elections 2024: outcomes and implications for organisations operating in the EU

In the European elections, which took place between 6 and 9 June 2024, citizens across the 27 Member States of the European Union cast their votes to renew the European Parliament for the next five years. Since 2009, European citizens directly vote for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that are representatives of national political parties, and the number of MEPs elected is directly representative of the size of a country’s population. Most national parties are also affiliated with European-wide political groups.

As it was expected already, the balance of power in the European Parliament has shifted rightward, but at the same time, the centrist parties managed to maintain their majority. The 720 newly elected MEPs will play a crucial role as co-legislators in shaping policies, legislation, and the overall direction of the European Union in the coming years.

In the aftermath of the elections, the EU is at a crossroads, and the months ahead will be critical for its internal dynamics and international positioning. In this article, we will delve into the results of the 2024 European elections and how to interpret them, also in light of their impact on European political groups and future coalition scenarios. We will also review the expected political priorities of the EU for the next five years. Finally, we will provide you with an overview of key dates in the European post-election landscape, complemented with actions your organisation can pursue to take advantage of this unique context.

Results of the European Elections 2024

In 2023, the EU institutions agreed to increase the number of seats in the European Parliament as of 2024: the total number of MEPs in the 10th legislature has increased from 705 to 720. You will find an overview of the seat distribution in the European Parliament below, with our main takeaways.

Note: the distribution is still subject to change as political groups are currently deciding on their membership.

Ordered by their election result, these are currently the political groups in the European Parliament:

  • The European People’s Party (EPP), a conservative centre-right grouping with a pro-EU stance. The EPP is the clear winner, taking 190 seats and once again establishing itself as the European Parliament’s biggest group. Traditionally forming a majority with S&D and Renew, it is now up to the EPP to decide whether it wants to search for majorities over the right or left.
  • The Socialists & Democrats (S&D), a centre-left group with a pro-EU stance. In a political landscape marked by the predicted shift to the right, S&D managed to remain remarkably stable. This keeps the European social democrats firmly in second place. The overall feeling in the group will be mixed: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD suffered a substantial loss at the European elections 2024, while Spain’s PSOE remained stable and Italy’s PD won seats.
  • Renew Europe (Renew), a liberal pro-European party. Formerly the so-called ‘kingmaker’ party, Renew was the deciding force between the two largest groups (EPP and S&D). Due to their loss of seats, their power in the next European Parliament is expected to decrease, although they are still necessary for any majority to form over the centre. French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron’s national coalition especially suffered an important electoral loss, prompting him to dissolve the French parliament and to call for new national Parliamentary elections scheduled for 30 June and 7 July.
  • The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), a right-wing, slightly Eurosceptic and anti-federalist political group. ECR can count itself among the major winners of the European elections. Over the past few months, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni positioned herself strategically in Europe and on the international stage, calling for closer collaboration with the EPP and often setting the group’s tone. Her Brothers of Italy party won big at home. In Belgium, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) became the biggest party.
  • Identity & Democracy (ID), a nationalist, right-wing and Eurosceptic political group. Despite expelling the German AfD party from the group before the elections, ID clearly gained ground in the elections. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally achieved a substantial victory, resulting in France contributing the highest number of MEPs to the ID, with a total of 30. Geert Wilders’ PVV also experienced notable success in the Netherlands, securing six seats (five new MEPs) for the group. Furthermore, Austria and Belgium witnessed significant successes for far-right parties.
  • The Greens/EFA (Greens), a party grouping of the Green and Pirate parties and Independent MEPs, as well as MEPs from the European Free Alliance (EFA) representing stateless nations, regions and minorities. Together with Renew, the Greens experienced a significant reduction in their representation, resulting in a net loss of nineteen seats. During the 2019-2024 legislature, the Greens held a powerful bargaining position, often adding their vote to find workable majorities in the European Parliament. They can still play that role, compensating for rebelling EPP conservatives to pass more ambitious climate policy. At the same time, their power to do so will be less significant.
  • The Left (Left, GUE/NGL), a left-wing group comprising socialist and communist political parties. Even though The Left has remained quite steady, the overall decline of the left-wing parties and the rise of the far-right set a negative precedent for ambitious environmental policies. As one of the smaller political groupings, The Left has to work together with other groups such as the Greens/EFA to make its voice heard.
  • The non-inscrits (NI), not a unified political group, but a category for MEPs not affiliated with any of the above-mentioned political groups. ‘NI’ (non-inscrits) is a catch-all term for parties or individual MEPs who, for various reasons, have not aligned with a political family. Since a few years, however, a number of hard-right parties have been joining the ranks of the non-affiliated parties. Most significantly, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party has been ‘NI’ ever since being expelled by the EPP. Despite losing ground, his party still remains the most voted in Hungary. The German far-right AfD also scored a major election victory, despite being expelled from ID.

How to interpret the results of the European elections 2024?

1. A shift to the right, but the centre holds

Following significant victories by right-wing parties in national elections, there was a noticeable shift towards the political right in the European elections. Far-right parties in Member States such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium experienced substantial increases in their support, positioning themselves as either the first or second political force of their country. As a result, the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the far-right Identity and Democracy groups (ID) both increased their number of seats in the European Parliament.

At the same time, European People’s Party (EPP, centre-right), Socialists & Democrats (S&D, centre-left) and Renew Europe (liberal), which regularly formed majorities and passed most major legislation in the 9th legislature, remain the three leading political forces of the European Parliament.


2. Von der Leyen looks for coalition partners as EPP wins

The centre-right European People’s Party cemented its position as the biggest political group in the European Parliament. Despite having signalled her willingness to work with the right-wing ECR group during the campaign, EPP lead candidate and current President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen made it known after the elections that she intends to reach out to S&D and Renew Europe in order to continue leading the work of the European Commission.

A continuation of the current centrist majority thus seems likely, albeit with a smaller majority than in the previous mandate. However, some opposing or abstaining votes within the three groups could still be expected. This is why Von der Leyen may also need to secure the support of the Greens, who will want assurances on continued climate ambition from the next Commission.


3. Major loss for Renew Europe and the Greens

Whereas the right gained ground, the Greens and Liberals lost the most seats in the European Parliament. French President Emmanuel Macron (Renew) faced a major setback, with the right-wing party Rassemblement National (ID) winning more than double the seats of his coalition in France. Macron responded by dissolving the national parliament and calling for new legislative elections on 30 June.

As expected, the European Greens also suffered significant losses, in particular in Germany, where their role in an unpopular coalition government with the centre-left and the liberals has hurt their position.

Potential coalitions

Following the European elections 2024, the political groups will now work towards forming a coalition in the European Parliament, to reach the majority set at 361 seats. This majority is crucial in the aftermath of the elections, as the European Parliament will subsequently vote by majority on the next President of the European Commission and the new College of Commissioners. Associated groups within the coalition will further be tied throughout the legislative cycle, albeit less formally, as key allies during legislative votes.

With a more fragmented European Parliament, forging majorities will become a challenge, which could lead to slower legislative advancement. Based on the current results, the next coalition scenarios are realistic, depending on the issue.

Scenario 1

EPP + S&D + Renew (406 seats): The three parties which formed the majority in most votes in the past Parliament still hold a relatively comfortable majority, albeit slightly smaller than before. While Renew lost, EPP won seats and S&D remained stable. After the first election results came in, Ursula von der Leyen indicated that EPP would reach out to S&D and Renew to form majorities in the next Parliament. These parties have worked together to form majorities on issues such as foreign policy, the energy transition and digitalisation. It is expected that they will continue to do so.

Scenario 2

EPP + S&D + Renew + Greens (458 seats): On more contentious issues where dissent within parties can be expected, such as von der Leyen’s potential re-election vote as President of the European Commission, the centrist coalition might need to look to boost its numbers with another group to form a majority. Since S&D has indicated its refusal to work with ECR, the Greens are the most likely partners for this role, despite their election losses. In return for their support on contentious votes, the Greens will likely demand assurances on continued climate ambition from the next Commission.

Scenario 3

EPP + ECR + ID (324 seats): This is not a majority we expect to see a lot, with especially EPP and ID being far apart on issues such as foreign policy. With the shift to the right, however, on certain themes, an ad-hoc majority might form (this would also include some right-wing NI votes, with these three together 36 seats short of a majority). These would especially be themes where EPP may feel that European climate policy has gone too far, such as nature and agriculture policy.

What does this mean for the next term?

The 2024 European elections took place in a context marked by profound changes: the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, a wave of farmer protests, a migration crisis, and a digital revolution driven by AI. These crises have shaped political narratives and public opinion, which was ultimately reflected in a rightward shift across Europe. Political priorities in the EU are expected to shift likewise.

Already before the 2024 European elections, political parties and the European Commission started to define their main priorities for the next legislative term. While the aftermath of the pandemic remains a top concern, political parties are focusing on the post-pandemic economic recovery, job creation, sustainable growth, and the reinforcement of the EU’s single market.

The competitiveness of European industry is an especially salient topic, as the EU is worried about not being able to keep up with China and the US. In April, former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta released a report on the future of the Single Market, which contains recommendations to unleash more capital for the green and digital transitions, making it easier for companies to grow and innovate in Europe. Letta called for deepening the Single Market through further integration of markets such as telecoms, energy and financial services. Another former Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, is publishing a report on the EU’s competitiveness in July. Both reports should inform European policy priorities for the next term.

This shift in priorities means that in the next term, financing the green transition with financial support might be prioritised over introducing additional green policies into the existing framework. The digital revolution, at the same time, continues to transform societies and economies: data protection, privacy rights, and responsible artificial intelligence will certainly remain priorities.

What happens after the European elections 2024

The next weeks and months will be crucial for the formation of the newly elected European Parliament and the appointment (and confirmation) of the President of the European Commission and their new College of Commissioners, but also to set the political priorities that will guide the coming mandate.


European Parliament

Already from the week of 10 June, the national delegations of newly elected MEPs have been meeting in Brussels to start discussing the formation of the main political groups that will sit in the European Parliament. For instance, some of the main leaders of the parties in the group Identity and Democracy (ID) met on 12 June to discuss the future of the group and to decide whether to admit the now kicked-out German right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) among its ranks again. Negotiations within the political groups will also take place to decide on substantive demands vis-à-vis the Commission Presidency. Each political group (except ECR so far) has indicated when they aim to finalise their composition:

  • 19 June: EPP
  • 19 June: Greens/EFA
  • 25 June: The Left
  • 26 June: S&D
  • 26 June: Renew Europe
  • 3 July: ID

The first plenary sitting of the new European Parliament is scheduled to take place in the week of 16-19 July. During the plenary, MEPs are expected to elect the new President of the European Parliament together with the Vice-Presidents and Quaestors. In the same week, the European Parliament could also already elect the President of the European Commission, who is likely to be nominated by the 27 EU heads of state and government during the European Council meeting of 27-28 June.

The week after the first plenary of the new European Parliament will be focused on the formation of the Parliamentary committees, which will appoint their respective Chairs and Vice Chairs.

After the summer recess, which stretches from 29 July until 30 August, Parliamentary activities will start again, with the hearings of the Commissioners-designate set to start already in September and wrap up around November when the new College of Commissioners will be officially confirmed by Parliamentary vote.


European Council

The European Council is expected to reach an agreement on a series of EU top positions (President of the European Commission, President of the European Council, President of the European Parliament). These nominations are expected to be officially confirmed during the European Council meeting of 27-28 June, during which the leaders of the 27 EU Member States will also adopt the Strategic Agenda 2024-2029 outlining the objectives for the next European Commission.

Starting in June, the heads of state and governments of the 27 EU Member States will officially nominate the Commissioners-designate. Parliamentary hearings on the new Commissioners could then start from September onwards.


European Commission

In July, the European Commission is expected to publish its Political Guidelines, a document set to kickstart the new mandate and to be used as a basis for subsequent Commission policies.

As soon as the parliamentary hearings start in September, the newly elected President of the European Commission will send a mandate letter to each Commissioner-designate, where they will outline the specific responsibilities, priorities, and goals for the individual’s role. Towards the end of this year or early next year, we can expect the next Commission’s first Working Programme. By then, we should know in detail which new initiatives the Commission expects to publish during its first year.

What can you do to take advantage of this momentum?

The post-election changes provide an opportunity for organisations to already start sharing their policy priorities with relevant stakeholders in Brussels.

For instance, while we wait for new priorities and initiatives from a new European Commission, organisations can continue to approach the Commission on more technical matters such as secondary legislation; it will continue its preparatory work before a new President and College of Commissioners enter office. After the summer recess, organisations can prepare by analysing and providing input to the new Commission agenda.

Once summer recess has ended and the new College of Commissioners has been appointed, the new legislative cycle begins, with a wide yet different array of opportunities for organisations to contribute to European policymaking.

Within the Publyon Beyond the Ballot campaign, we provide further insights into the impact that the European elections 2024 might have on your organisation. We are organising a series of informative webinars that will help you navigate the new political landscape. Do not hesitate to reach out to us for more information.

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