Between 6 and 9 June 2024, citizens across the continent will exercise their democratic rights to shape the future of the European Union. The European Parliament elections will be a significant moment as the new Members of the European Parliament (now 705 but expected to grow to 720 after the elections) will play a crucial role in formulating policies, legislation, and the overall direction of the European Union for the coming years, or at least until their mandate ends in 2029.
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 to European-wide political groups, which in the end sit in the European Parliament.
In this article, we will explore the key aspects of the upcoming elections, the potential implications, and the issues at stake for European businesses and organisations.
Economic recovery and sustainable growth right on sight, climate change playing second fiddle?
The European Parliament elections in 2024 are once again set to take place in a time of significant political shifts and challenges. Since the previous elections in 2019, Europe has witnessed substantial changes, including the global COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery efforts, climate change concerns, and the EU’s renewed efforts to become energy independent.
These circumstances have shaped political narratives and public opinion, making the upcoming European elections an opportunity for companies and organisations to shape the new agenda of the institutions. Both the political parties at national level as well as the European Commission have commenced its activities to define the directions for the next legislative term. While the aftermath of the pandemic remains a top concern, the political parties are focussing on the post-pandemic economic recovery, job creation, sustainable growth, and the reinforcement of the EU’s single market.
These issues seem to be more and more in the spotlight, in contrast with climate change and decarbonisation efforts that previously dominated the institutional agenda. This has been also confirmed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her State of the Union address on 14 September, where she highlighted industrial policy, competitiveness (read more about EU’s competitiveness strategy here) and the addressing of digital risks as main priorities for the last year of this European Commission term.
While several Members States heavily lobby for it, the European Commission also seems to acknowledge the need for a ‘regulatory pause’ to assess the impact of current climate legislation on businesses, consumer prices, employment and the competitiveness of EU industries. Even more, recent elections – such as the regional elections in Germany showed that citizens are getting more worried about climate policies becoming overly expensive and political parties at the (far) right of the spectrum seem to benefit from this.
Facilitating the green transition with financial support should be prioritised rather than introducing additional green policies into the existing framework. The digital revolution, however, continues to transform societies and economies and data protection, privacy rights, and responsible artificial intelligence will certainly remain priorities.
2019 European Parliament elections
How would political groups score if European elections were to be held today?
It has been recently approved that as of 2024, more seats will be available in the European Parliament. The total number of MEPs in the 10th legislature will increase from 705 to 720.
If European elections were to take place today, it is likely that the European People’s Party (EPP) would win the most number of seats, followed by the Socialist and Democrats (S&D) and Renew Party. The conservative nationalist ECR group, currently the sixth force in the European Parliament, however has still the chance to be the third-largest group, taking over from the centrist Renew Group. The biggest loser, however, is likely to be the Greens/European Free Alliance who would lose the most seats.
European Parliament elections 2024
April 2023 projection of seats distribution
National elections: A look into domestic political arenas
While the official European elections 2024 campaign is still to start, national elections give a good indication about trends.
During the Slovakian presidential elections on 30 September, the winner far-right party SMER-SSD signed a coalition agreement with the centre-left HLAS (Voice) and nationalist SNS, which pledges to keep the country’s basic foreign policy stance as a member of NATO and the EU. It is also expected that Slovakia will not become an ally to Hungary in their efforts to block certain decisions among the EU-27.
The general elections in Poland on 15 October brought some unexpected results: the victory of the opposition parties signals a radical change both in Poland and in the EU. Following eight years of governing with a strong anti-EU stance by the Law and Justice Party (PiS), the wings of change could be decisive for the balance of power in the EU.
The Netherlands is holding its general elections later in November following the earlier collapse of the coalition government. For now, it seems that three big parties are dominating the polls: the Labour Party (PvdA) and GroenLinks (Green-Left) have joined forces in an electoral alliance and have polled close to the liberal VVD throughout the summer, while the newly established centrist Nieuw Sociaal Contract (NSC) founded in late August, has recently jumped to the top of the polls.
In the fragmented Dutch political landscape, most of the biggest parties will likely be needed to form a majority coalition, which means that a centrist coalition with the three aforementioned parties or a centre-right coalition (for example, with VVD, NSC, the farmers’ rights party BBB and a smaller party) is most likely. While a coalition with PvdA/GroenLinks (led by former European Commissioner for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans) is expected to continue pushing for ambitious climate policy, a coalition with BBB would be more sceptical, especially on environmental policy affecting farmers.
European elections 2024: what happens next?
The outcome of the European Parliament elections in 2024 will have profound implications for the future of Europe. The balance of power within the European Parliament will determine the ability of political groups to advance their agendas and influence policy decisions. The election results may impact the selection of the next European Commission president, leading to potential shifts in the EU’s strategic priorities.
The future of the Spitzenkandidaten process – the privilege of the winning political group to nominate the next President of the European Commission – remains uncertain. European political groups are expected to nominate their lead candidates later in 2023, but it might once again be impossible to assess the real political significance of this procedure until after the elections. If Commission President Ursula von der Leyen decides to run again and the polls tighten further, the outcome of the election may turn into an exciting battle between the EPP incumbent and a socialist challenger.
What can you do to take advantage of this big momentum?
The European Parliament elections in 2024 will be a pivotal moment for the European Union. The issues at stake, including economic recovery, competitiveness, climate change, migration, digital transformation, and institutional reforms, will be at the forefront of electoral campaigns.
Hence, the run-up to the European Parliament elections will open a window of opportunity for your organisation to shape the EU’s future agenda.
The political groups are already hard at work developing their electoral vision. While the official campaigning period is yet to kick-off towards the end of 2023, organisations that would like to proactively contribute to the policy priorities, should not wait much longer to engage with the relevant decision-makers, both at national and EU level.
At the same time, the European Commission’s legislating activities are also winding down and preliminary discussions about the priorities for the next term begin behind closed doors of the Directorate Generals. This presents an opportunity to proactively share your ideas and solutions.
Publyon has a proven track record and extensive network that can support you in delivering on your ambition to access policy makers in view of influencing and providing input to the political agenda. Do not hesitate to reach out to us to learn more about our European elections services.