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30 April 2024 | 3 minutes

The European Elections: what can we expect?

On June 6, the Netherlands will elect the 31 members who will sit in the European Parliament for the next five years. The European Parliament, together with the Council (the ministers of the member states), approves and shapes proposals made by the European Commission, the EU's executive. With major challenges of climate change, geopolitical tensions and economic uncertainty, the choices made by European voters will determine the course of the continent in the years to come. The leadership of the European Commission will also change this year. What can we expect and why do these elections matter?

The European Elections: what can we expect?

The elections
Between June 6 and 9, elections will take place in different European countries, depending on the state. In the Netherlands, it will be on June 6 from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm. This time, the Netherlands will elect 31 MEPs; 5 more than in the 2019 European elections. This is due to the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union and because the Dutch population has grown. The total number of seats in the European Parliament is also increasing: from 705 to 720.

 

Candidates and Spitzenkandidaten
Although we at Castro already hosted the first European election 2024 debate on April 9 (it can be watched back here ), the participating parties are not required to publish their final list of candidates until April 23. The European Parliament (EP) is divided into several political groups, made up of members of like-minded political parties from different EU countries:

  • European People’s Party (EPP) – center-right.
  • Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) – center-left.
  • Renew Europe – liberal, centrist.
  • Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EVA) – environmental and regional interests.
  • Identity and Democracy (ID) – right-wing nationalist.
  • European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) – conservative, Euroskeptic.
  • The Left Group in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL) – left-wing, anti-capitalist.

The concept of “spitzenkandidaten” was introduced to strengthen the democratic process by linking the candidates for the presidency of the European Commission to the European elections. Spitzenkandidaten are the “lead candidates” of each political group. The idea is that the group that wins the election would propose its spitzenkandidat as President of the Commission. This process was successful in 2014 when Jean-Claude Juncker of the EPP was elected after the election. It did not follow this procedure in 2019, raising questions about the future viability of the spitzenkandidat system. Interestingly, the EPP has now put forward Ursula von der Leyen, the current president of the European Commission. This seems to give her a good chance of continuing her presidency as well as another spitzenkandidat becoming President of the Commission.

 

Past term
Important steps were taken by the European Parliament in the period from 2019 to 2024. A highlight of this period is the launch of the European Green Deal. This ambitious strategy aims to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. The Green Deal covers a wide range of measures, including investments in clean energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. This initiative has received considerable attention from supporters and critics alike and is likely to remain a central theme during upcoming election campaigns.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Parliament championed measures to support health care, stimulate economic recovery and strengthen cross-border cooperation. In April 2024, after nearly a decade of discussion, the European Parliament agreed to the migration pact, leading to a new and stricter European asylum and migration policy.

Furthermore, issues such as digitalization and social policy were high on the agenda, as well as cooperation on trade, security and climate change. This spawned the Consumer Agenda, European Health Data Space, DMA, DSA, AI Act, among others.

 

Populist shift
In the upcoming elections, we can expect a political shift. Although the classic power blocs of the EPP and S&D seem to remain fairly equal compared to five years ago according to current polls, the nationalist ID group and the conservative-right ECR are showing considerable growth, while the Greens and Liberals are expected to lose seats. Europe’s radical-right parties are finding common ground in their opposition to the EU; be it on climate, the rule of law or the asylum crisis. These political shifts will therefore undoubtedly influence the agenda of the new Commission.

Among the Dutch parties, a major victory for the PVV lies ahead. The party now has 0 seats in the EP, which could become 9, according to a recent Ipsos I&O poll. This is followed by GroenLinks-PvdA with 6 and VVD with 5 seats. At a distance follow four parties with two seats: D66, Volt, NSC and CDA and three parties with one seat: BBB, Party for the Animals and SP.

In the campaign, issues such as climate change, migration, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the possible return of Donald Trump will dominate the agenda.

In the next blog, we will discuss the main issues expected to play out in the upcoming European legislature from 2024-2029.