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EU Elections: Who are the Players and What's at Stake?

With the European Parliament elections just around the corner, political analysts predict a substantial shift to the right across multiple countries. Projections indicate that centre-left and green groups are set to lose seats, while right-wing parties are expected to gain seats. This anticipated shift in the European Parliament’s composition could have a major impact on both domestic and foreign policies, reshaping the future of Europe. Amidst this decisive moment, who exactly are the candidates? 


Alina-Mihaela Olăreanu & Ana Maria Sanchez Antelo


Between June 6-9, 2024, citizens across the European Union (EU) will vote in a critical election to choose 720 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). This represents an increase of 15 from the previous term. Held every five years, the European Parliament (EP) is the only EU institution directly elected by its citizens. Voters will elect members of national parties, which often join transnational political groups in the EP, based on political affiliation, and regardless of nationality. The distribution of seats is proportional to the size of each country, with Germany having the largest allocation at 96 seats, and Malta, Cyprus, and Luxembourg receiving the smallest allocation at 6 seats. 


Nearly 400 million eligible voters, including those in overseas territories like French Polynesia and New Caledonia, can participate in the upcoming elections. While the standard voting age in most countries is 18, it is 17 in Greece and 16 in Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Malta. In some countries like Belgium, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria, voting is obligatory.


This election will play a crucial role in determining the direction and priorities of the EU, addressing pressing issues and setting the agenda for the coming five years. It will be the first European elections since Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and the wars and conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. Some significant challenges for the next term are tackling the future of the European Green Deal, managing migration through the Pact for Migration and Asylum, EU enlargement and future of accession countries, etc.


In the following section, we’ll delve into the core priorities and policy proposals of each political group represented in the EP. We will cover a wide range of topics, from defence and security, to environmental and migration policies.


Source: European Parliament Website


European People's Party 


The European’s People’s Party (EPP) is the largest party group in the EP and is considered a centre-right party. This group is made up of MEPs from national parties such as the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Germany, and the Partido Popular (PP) in Spain. Their lead candidate or Spitzenkandidat is the current European Commission’s president Ursula Von der Leyen (Germany).


Compared to the 2019 manifesto, the current EPP manifesto includes a lot more references to security and defence. Amidst the war in Ukraine, the EPP advocates for the enlargement of NATO and underscores the need to establish a Commissioner for Security and Defence.


Furthermore, the manifesto calls for respecting climate goals of the Green Deal, even if the party has been accused of changing its views in climate policies in response to the farmers’ discontent regarding such measures.


As for migration, the EPP wants to ensure stronger control over migration and protect Europe's borders. They plan to reinforce Frontex by tripling its staff to 30,000 and equipping it with more resources. The EPP advocates for a robust external border protection following the Migration and Asylum Pact


Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats 


The second largest political group in the EP, is the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), which brings together centre-left and progressive parties. Their lead candidate is Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg). 


They position themselves as centre-left and concentrate on social and environmental issues. Their priorities, in the order they established, are support for Ukraine and assistance to stop Putin’s war, fight for gender equality and women’s rights, including pay transparency, ensuring adequate and affordable housing and fight for the European Green Deal with a “red heart,” by shifting to a sustainable and carbon-neutral world


Additionally, they prioritise “decent income” and adequate minimum wage, an inclusive Digital Europe with equal access to everybody, the adoption of a “One Health” approach, and they support a stronger Europe that stays influential globally and puts its citizens’ interests first. Finally, they aim to ensure corporate responsibility and “fight the far right.”


Renew Europe


Renew Europe is a pro-European political group primarily led by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). Being the biggest transnational party, this group has a mix of liberal values with a pro-business attitude. Their lead candidates are Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (Germany), Sandro Gozi (Italy) and Valérie Hayer (France).


Similarly to EPP, a significant aspect of their manifesto for the upcoming elections concerns security and defence. The party calls for investing in a pan-European defence capability. They aim to improve Europe's independent capacity and create synergies without duplicating NATO efforts. 


Moreover, they stand for the EU enlargement, while demanding reforms in EU decision-making procedure and restructuring the EU budget to ensure that the EU is prepared financially to be joined by new countries.


Regarding migration, they aim to address root causes by forming partnerships focused on job creation and climate change mitigation. Additionally, they plan to run information campaigns about the reality of migration to counter the disinformation spread by smugglers.


In addition, they advocate for greater European integration, including transnational voting in order to give the “choice to vote for any European representative,” regardless of nationality. Also, they support the legalisation of same-sex marriages and improving LGBTI+ rights.


Greens–European Free Alliance


The fourth group in the EP, the Greens–European Free Alliance (Gr/EFA), is represented by the alliance of the Greens, the European Free Alliance and the European Pirate Party, along with individual members running independently. The European Green Party’s lead candidates are Terry Reintke (Germany) and Bas Eickhout (the Netherlands). The EFA’s lead candidates are Raül Romeva (Spain) and Maylis Roßberg (Germany). 


Situated firmly on the left of the political spectrum, the Gr/EFA alliance is dedicated to protecting the environment and addressing social inequality. Specifically, they focus on reducing poverty, enhancing public services, and ensuring freedom of expression devoid of discrimination. Additionally, they advocate against mass surveillance and other forms of AI abuse. Similarly to S&D, they advocate for the promotion of “decent” paying jobs and “warm homes.”


European Conservatives and Reformists


The group European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) is a politically conservative and eurosceptic group. Currently, no lead candidate was nominated.


The first point of their manifesto is preserving national identity. Considering themselves as Eurorealists, not anti-European, they see the EU as a “community of nations cooperating in areas where they have common interests,” which can be better achieved by working together.


Another priority for ECR is migration. They propose a migration strategy for border security that covers all possible points of entry, and fighting against human trafficking and smuggling. Advocating for externalising the EU's border, this group wants that the majority of applications for international protection are assessed outside of the EU.


Regarding the environment and climate change, they oppose the Green Deal saying that they “intend on protecting citizens, farmers and businesses from the negative impacts of the current over-ideological green climate policy.”


Identity and Democracy 


Next is the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which is a right-wing, sometimes perceived as far-right, party. As of now, similarly to ECR, they did not nominate a lead candidate. Its members include national parties, like National Rally (France) and Lega (Italy). Until last week, the Alternative for Germany party was also a member, but it was expelled due to scandals, including potential connections to China and Russia and a controversial remark by its lead candidate suggesting that Nazi SS members were not necessarily criminals.


This party holds eurosceptic views, prioritising the affirmation and preservation of national identities, advocating for an end to the EU intervention in Member States’ internal affairs, and providing a stronger voice for the national parliaments within the EU. Specifically, they support reinforced border controls to tackle uncontrolled immigration, and reject the accession of non-EU countries, such as Turkey, to the EU. Additionally, they are against imposing a Eurozone budget and direct EU taxes.


The Left in the European Parliament


The Left in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL) is a political group embracing a left agenda, focusing on social equality, workers rights (including a minimum income), protection of the environment, and promotion of a feminist agenda. Their lead candidate is Walter Baier (Austria).


In their mandate, the Party of the European Left (PEL), which represents GUE/NGL’s biggest member, argues for no new nuclear arms in Europe. They call for a redistribution of spending on armaments towards projects for social and ecological transformation. In this regard, they consider that “global arms race are key factors influencing the environmental crisis.” They believe in the role of the EU as a peacemaker to achieve a socio-ecological and eco-social transformation.


Regarding migration, they envision a break with “Fortress Europe,” standing for the abolition of the Dublin Agreement and the dissolution of Frontex. Similarly to Renew Europe, they advocate for the legal recognition of LGBTQIA+ identities and same-sex marriage.


Non-Inscrits and Volt


In addition to the main political groups, there are non-attached members in the EP, known as Non-Inscrits (NI). Currently, there are over fifty MEPs who do not belong to any of the recognised political groups within the EP. Reasons for this include specific ideological stance, desire to maintain independence, expulsion from political groups, or membership in small/new parties that do not meet the criteria for forming a group, such as, as of now, the pan-European Volt party. 


The Volt party positions itself as a centre, pro-European party and aims to obtain five seats in the upcoming elections. They nominated two lead candidates, namely Sophie in ‘t Veld (the Netherlands) and Damian Boeselager (Germany). Their priorities include a more democratic Europe, a shift to climate neutrality, affordable housing and accessible public transport, and the formation of a European army.


Predictions



Source: Europe Elects


According to Europe Elects, expected to lose seats compared to the 2019 elections are the following groups:


Greens/European Free Alliance: Expected to lose 26 seats.

Renew Europe: Expected to lose 22 seats.

Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats: Expected to lose 14 seats.

Non-Inscrits: Expected to lose 9 seats.


And expected to gain seats compared to the 2019 elections are:


European People's Party: Expected to gain 1 seat.

European Conservatives and Reformists: Expected to gain 24 seats.

Identity and Democracy: Expected to gain 11 seats.

The Left in the European Parliament: Expected to gain 3 seats.


What happens next?


In the past years, the EPP and S&D were the two biggest parties in the EP. However, with these predictions, and the far-right expected to rise, the future of the EU remains uncertain. It is crucial who would have the majority of votes in the EP as this would allow them to set the policy direction, priorities and influence the decision-making processes.


After the elections, the parliamentary groups will be formed and the EP will elect its President. The European Council will propose a President for the European Commission, who will have to be approved by the EP (hence, elected indirectly by the citizens). If this proposal is approved, the elected President of the European Commission will ask Member States to submit their nominations for Commissioners (in total 27 Commissioners).


To know which national party will represent which transnational political group and more statistics, you can check this link. For more information on candidates and voting details, visit the official website of the EP. 


Make your voice heard and shape the future of Europe by casting your vote on June 6-9, 2024. 



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