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Intel Brief: European Elections


Date: 03/06/2024

Location: The European Union

Who’s involved: European citizens and national political parties from all 27 EU member states

How do the European Elections work?

  • The European Elections will take place between June 6 and 9. Over 373 million people from all 27 European member states are able to vote for the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Together, they will choose 720 MEPs in total. The number of MEPs from each country is determined by the size of a country’s population, so more populated countries like Germany and France get more seats in the European Parliament in comparison to less populated countries like Luxembourg or the Netherlands.

  • The European Parliament has various responsibilities: it has to agree on the annual EU budget together with the Council of the EU, it is responsible for the adaptation of EU legislation together with the Council of the EU, and it oversees the work of EU institutions. 

  • The European Parliament is the only EU body that is directly chosen by EU citizens. EU citizens vote for a national political party, but once elected, the MEPs from the national political parties will join transnational political groups based on their shared political views. The European Parliament currently consists of 7 transnational political groups, that vary from left wing to right wing and pro-European to Eurosceptic, and unaffiliated MEPs.  

What will happen after the results are in?

  • After the elections, all of the groups will hold meetings and there will probably be a reshuffling of some groups, especially among right leaning groups. Some parties or individuals will likely change groups or join one, if they were previously unaffiliated. 

  • During the first plenary session, the Parliament will elect the president and other bodies and will form committees dedicated to specific topics. 

  • Later on, MEPs will vote for the President of the European Commission, previously chosen by the leaders of European countries. The President, along with EU countries, will then proceed to choose Commissioners, who will also be dependent on the votes of the Parliament. If any candidate, including the President, is not accepted by the Parliament the process will be repeated until an agreement is found. 

What are the main issues at stake?

  • Defense is the hot topic of these elections, which became especially prominent with the war in Ukraine. The last year has seen a focus on improving European defense capacities after decades of decreased spending on this area. Many groups in the center and in the right, including the far right, agree on the urgence of bigger investments on the European industry of defense to foster strategic independence along with national security and mechanisms for common procurement. Although common procurement is already practiced, it remains a small-scale initiative. This has been one of the main points of the campaign for many candidates to the European Commission, with Von der Leyen even proposing the establishment of a Defence Commissioner in the next European Commission. However, it remains a contentious issue as higher investments in the defense sector are not really appreciated in the leftist groups, which instead tend towards demilitarization. 

  • Climate change is also one of the main issues during the European Elections. Over the past few years, millions of people all across Europe have been demonstrating to urge governments and polluting companies to do more to fight climate change. In addition, a ‘green wave’ was visible during the European elections in 2019, during which many voters decided to choose for parties that were part of the Greens/EFA. In the same year, the European Commission launched the European Green Deal (EGD), which was approved in 2020. The EGD consists of a set of policy initiatives focussing on climate change with the goal of making the EU climate neutral in 2050. However, many parties have expressed concerns about the costs of this green transition. European farmers have also voiced their discontent with new rules and regulations that were put in place to reach the EGDs goals. In the most recent series of protests in 2024, farmers from a majority of EU member states went on the streets in different European cities, including Brussels, which eventually led to the European Parliament voting for a watered-down law to restore nature. The EPP is known for actively campaigning against EGD proposals and also pitches itself as a ‘farmers’ party’ during its election campaign. However, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy Group (ID) have also increasingly focussed on the farmers’ discontent to gain support in the run-up to the European elections. On the other side, the Greens have been pushing for reforms in agriculture to benefit the environment, while other parties remain divided internally over agricultural reforms and the EGD.

  • Migration is the most controversial topic of this election, especially with the recent surge of (far) right, anti-immigration parties in many parts of the European continent. Migration, especially illegal migration, is increasingly considered negatively by many European citizens and governments who would prefer to allocate financial resources for their own nationals. After years of negotiations, on May 14 the EU adopted the controversial New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which is intended to reduce the number of arrivals and outsource the management of migrants. This will also try to speed up the processing of asylum requests and establish mandatory burden sharing for countries less affected by the influx of migrants. This reform has been at the center stage of electoral campaigns. Most parties on the right, including the center-right EPP, are advocating for strengthening the controls established by the new European legislation and the transfer of migrants to third party countries while their applications are processed, along the lines of the deal that the Italian government signed with Albania. This last point is rejected by leftist groups as they stress the importance of humanitarian assistance. 

What are the expected results and formations?

  • The current ruling coalition is formed by groups closer to the center, including the center-right EPP, the center-left S&D and the liberal Renew Europe (RE). According to the most recent electoral polls, both EPP and S&D will likely lose seats and have to rely on an increasingly strained majority. Their numbers have progressively been eroded in recent years as the right and far right has gained more seats. RE will also likely lose seats. The Dutch party VVD will probably be expelled from the group due to its alliance to far right parties in the new Dutch government, which is considered by many RE members as unacceptable.

  • The next European Parliament will likely experience a significant rightward shift, as the two main right wing groups, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy Group (ID), will gain seats, following the same trend that characterized recent elections in many European countries. This might give the ECR and ID a considerable influence over many topics, especially defense, green policies and migration, which might bring them closer to the EPP. Even though the two groups sometimes disagreed on specific issues, some members recently expressed the intention of merging, in order to gain more leverage. In particular, the ECR and ID will likely mount a stronger front, together with the EPP, against green policies. As they will hold more seats, they will be able to undermine green policies and in some cases even stop them. A wild card on the far right front will be the German Alternative für Deutschland, which was recently expelled from ID and isolated by other members for their apologetic comments about Nazism. The same counts for the Hungarian Fidesz, which pulled out from the EPP after clashes due to its policies disregarding judicial independence. 

  • Previously, the results of European elections were more predictable, as the EPP and S&D always retained a very strong majority. As their numbers are shrinking, current scenarios for the day after are more uncertain. The two groups came to terms with the increasing influence of right wing groups, which include some current governing parties. As a consequence, EPP signaled the possibility of cooperating with some members of the ECR on a number of issues that created problems with the S&D in the current legislature. This move sparked anger among the S&D, as they promised to never cooperate with right wing parties. Divisions between EPP and S&D were already growing, especially after the S&D backed the European law on nature restoration, which the EPP, along with other right wing parties, strongly opposed citing concerns about the livelihood of farmers.  

  • At the moment, the likely scenario is a repetition of the current ruling coalition, which will have less numbers than before. Moreover, on divisive topics the coalition might split. The EPP and the S&D have shown differences during the last legislative session and this might push the EPP to cooperate more often with right wing groups in opposition to leftist policies. Although an alliance between the EPP and right wing parties is very unlikely it cannot be completely ruled out. 


These European elections will be fundamental as the new Parliamentary composition will greatly influence the course of European policies for the years to come. With the rise of hard right and far right parties across the whole continent, there will likely be a rightward shift in the new policies. This will likely entail also a review of old policies to adapt them to the new composition, especially in regards to migration and climate policies.


202405 European Elections
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