Picture taken during the second State of the Union address delivered by Ursula von der Leyen in 2021
Flickr | European Parliament

European Elections 2024 – Key EU Issues and Important Players

Between June 6th to 9th 2024, EU citizens will vote to elect a new EU Parliament. Taking place every 5 years, this year represents a crucial moment in European democracy as key issues such as the refugee crisis and environmental issues take precedent.

Better World Info’s guide provides over ➡️ 2,000 resources to help you understand how to vote, why your vote matters, the issues at stake, and who the main players are.

The last election took place in 2019. Of the 400 million Europeans who were eligible, only 51% cast their votes. Low voter turnout threatens democracy in the EU, creates unrepresentative governments, and promotes increased marginalisation of minority groups. This absence of civic engagement is driven by lack awareness of EU affairs, language barriers, distrust and political apathy.

Discover tools for voters, reliable news sources, information on parliamentary groups, the parties and candidates, European politics in general, past European elections, and the most important election topics. German speakers should visit our partner site Bessere Welt Info for over 1,000 links to Europawahl 2024 from a German and Austrian perspective.

 

Reinhard Bütikofer and Monica Frassoni at the 29th Council Meeting of the European Greens - Berlin 2018
European Greens | CC BY 2.0

Who are the Parliamentary Groups up for Election?

In the last legislative period, seven political groups with a total of 705 members were represented in the EU Parliament. The European Parliament forms the second largest electorate in the world. Currently, the group with the largest number of seats is the European People's Party (EPP). 

The EPP is a conservative and Christian democratic group that includes members of the CDU and CSU. This is followed by the Social Democratic Group (S&D), which advocates for social and democratic issues and workers' rights. These two groups have dominated the Parliament since its creation.

Renew Europe hold the third largest number of seats in Parliament and are formed from a coalition of liberal and centrist parties. Other political groups include:

  • The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) which brings together environmentally minded parties and those that represent regional interests.

  • The European Conservatives and Reformers (ECR) which represent conservative and Eurosceptic positions.

  • The Left and Communist Group, known as the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)

  • Identity and Democracy (ID) a right-wing party focused on protecting sovereignty and regulating immigration

  • Non-Inscrits which are independent MEPs who do not belong to one of the recognised political parties and represent their own ideologies

A man puts his ballot in a box during elections in Europe in front of the EU flag
Flickr | Avansa regio Brugge

How can I Vote in the EU 2024 Elections? Who is Eligible?

There are around 320 million Europeans who are eligible to vote in this year's EU election. EU citizens are able to vote from their country of origin, abroad, or in the EU country you are a resident in. EU member states are free to set their own minimum voting age. Austria, Germany, and Malta all permit voters from the age of 16 to cast their ballot which fosters greater political engagement from a young age and promotes youth empowerment.

In the 2019 EU elections, voter turnout among those aged under 25 was just 42%, the figure rose slightly to 47% for those aged up to 39. More measures and initiatives are needed to inspire and involve young people in European politics, even more so when we consider that this was the highest participation rate in over 2 decades.

Voter turnout has declined in every vote held between 1979 (the first ever European Parliament election) and 2014 when it reached an all-time low. Interest has been slowly increasing as the urgency of EU issues feel closer to home and start to impact our daily lives.

The electoral process is based on proportional representation, which makes the distribution of seats in the European Parliament proportional to the votes received. Voters do not elect candidates directly, but rather lists of candidates drawn up by political parties or independent groups.

The number of seats a party or group receives depends on its percentage of the total vote. It is important to note that some countries use threshold clauses to ensure that only parties or groups that receive a certain percentage of the vote are elected to parliament.

 

Syrians and Iraq refugees arrive to the island of Lesbos, Greece by boat. Many are swimming in the water and they are all weating orange life vests
Ggia | CC BY-SA 4.0

Key European Political Issues

Huge globally significant events like Brexit, the European migration crisis, and the Covid-19 pandemic have made voters more aware of the impact that the EU has on their daily lives. Struggling under multiple crises including increasing geopolitical tensions, climate change, rising inflation and cost of living, and large-scale migration, the EU is facing many difficult and complex decisions.

Cultural, social, and political differences between the member states have put a huge strain on EU unity. Division and polarity are becoming increasing issues. The Russian war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war have put extra financial pressure on the EU, created untold displacement and suffering, and has pushed Europe further down the path of militarization, nuclear proliferation, and armament.

The issue of a common defence and security policy has become increasingly important. The USA holds a significant influence over European military policy through NATO, and the European arms trade is responsible for the largescale export of weapons into crisis regions such as Yemen and Ukraine.

More than 140 million people in the EU are currently at risk of poverty, amounting to more than 20% of the population. The need for social protections, quality housing, financial support, and social cohesion is greater than ever.

EU migration policies are in urgent need of reform as 28,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean since 2014 desperately fleeing their home countries. The EU has been repeatedly criticized for human rights violations regarding its treatment of refugees.

Youth unemployment is alarmingly high in some EU countries and is further exacerbated by increasing automation. Economic instability, the future of the Eurozone, the effects of digitalization, data protection, and cybersecurity are all high on the agenda for EU citizens.

The EU is currently behind target on its commitments to greenhouse gas reduction and progress towards the energy transition. Climate change, renewable energy, and environmental protection are key issues for voters who are growing disillusioned with empty promises from politicians on reform and climate policy.

Increasing inequalities within the EU have boosted the popularity of extremist and populist movements. Parties that are critical or negative towards EU unity and ideologies are gaining support across various countries. A climate of fear is emerging as a result and discrimination, racism, and anti-Semitism are noticeably increasing. Cohesion within the EU is at risk if these forces gain significant political power as they promote a culture of isolation and nationalism.

 

A magnifying glass sits on the flag of European Union in a circle of other flags from around the world
Flickr | Marco Verch

Vote in the EU elections for a Better Europe and a Better World

In times of increasing globalization and complex geopolitical developments, the EU elections are an opportunity for citizens to have an active say in the direction that the European Union will take. The sustainable management of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, economic recovery from inflation and recession, the European relationship with Russia, and the future of European integration and migration are crucial issues that require committed action from politicians who are not afraid to speak out and take action.

In view of populist and nationalist tendencies and growing social divisions, high voter turnout is an important contribution to the stability and legitimacy of EU institutions. In addition, political engagement contributes to promoting strong democracies and counteracting extremism or anti-democratic tendencies.

The European Union is faced with the uphill task of strengthening its resilience while upholding the values of solidarity, democracy, and the rule of law. By taking part in the EU elections, citizens can actively contribute to shaping a strong and capable European Union that is able to respond to current challenges and defend common values.

To promote citizen engagement, the EU elections could be scheduled for Europe Day on May 9th and declared a public holiday. This proposal is currently under review and requires the consent of all EU member states to be passed.

Make sure that this 2024 European election you use your voice to take decisive action on the issues that will affect our future.

Author: Maximilian Stark 07.02.24 licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0 translated and edited by Rachael Mellor 28.03.24

For more information on the 2024 European Elections see below ⬇️

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