EU Elections: A Prognosis for 2024 & How You Can Act Now to Influence the Next 5 Years

The upcoming EU elections make 2024 a critical year for the future of the block. Contrary to what many believe, the elections are a crucial moment not only for politicians but also for EU businesses and citizens, who can have their say on what EU institutions should focus on in the next five years.

With that in mind, we have prepared a complete EU elections guide, which should be an important read for organisations and individuals alike. More than outlining the projected results, this piece explains why now is the time for businesses to engage with legislators and stakeholders, and how to get your voice heard in Brussels, even as a small player.

Want someone with deep experience and connections in the EU to help guide your sustainability strategy? Get in touch!

How EU Elections Work and the Projected Results for 2024

The EU Parliament is set for a significant transformation, with elections scheduled to happen between June 6 and 9, 2024. Leading up to the event, the final Parliament’s plenary sitting will be held in April 2024.

The impending elections mark the end of tenure for many current members of the European Parliament (MEPs), while some may secure re-election for the new mandate. December 2023 will be the deadline for them to conclude any outstanding legislative files, since, after that, attention will quickly shift towards the electoral landscape. With campaigns officially kicking off in January, the legislative process will be put on hold, as MEPs focus on securing support in their respective countries.

But the elections also bring important changes to the European Commission.

Every five years, the entire political leadership of the institution is replaced by new staff, and a new Commission president is nominated and approved by the Parliament, although re-election is possible for that role. Only the Commission’s lower (technical) level remains untouched, with no changes in the Commission Units staff.

After the elections in June, political parties will begin to work on forming coalitions, which will likely drag the Parliament’s legislative hiatus well into the autumn of 2024. During this transitional phase, the Commission will also refrain from introducing new legislative initiatives.

The Prognosis for the Upcoming Elections

Traditionally, the proposed candidate for the Commission’s presidency comes from the largest political party in the Parliament and, since the European People’s Party (EPP) will probably be the biggest one, and Ursula von der Leyen will likely be reappointed for the position.

In terms of power distribution, recent polls across the Union point towards a growth of the far-right and far-left wings, and significant losses for the Green party.

Here are the current estimates of the changes expected for the most prominent parties in the next term:

  • European People’s Party (EPP): may lose around 15-20 seats from the current 176.
  • Social Democrats (S&D) is estimated not to significantly change the number of seats (144 in the present term)
  • Renew Group may lose seats from the current 101 to around 90.
  • Greens/EFA: may decrease by one third (from the current 72 seats) scoring the largest loss amongst the Parliament’s political groups.
  • European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR): is expected to gain around 15 seats from the current 66.
  • Identity and Democracy (ID): might gain a few 6 seats, going from 62 to 68.
  • The Left: is expected to grow from 37 to around 47 MEPs.

Overall, it looks like the EU Parliament will lean further right as a result of the 2024 elections – a trend also observed in many Member States. Unfortunately, this movement could be a threat to the EU’s green agenda, since centre and right-wing MEPs may slow down or even put a halt to the work on pending Green Deal initiatives, such as the REACH Revision.

The Importance of Having Your Say & Collaborating With EU Legislators

While it may seem that policymakers only listen to each other when developing new legislation, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Considering the magnitude of the challenges we currently face, it’s not realistic to expect legislators to single-handedly craft the ideal solutions to address them. In fact, the EU not only recognises the importance of stakeholder collaboration in the legislative process but also encourages input from all members of society.

By actively engaging with EU policymakers, European companies can have a direct hand in shaping legislation that affects them and play their part in solving critical collective challenges, such as climate change. Acting as subject-matter experts, industry representatives can inform legislators about their needs and also about what does and doesn’t work in the real world, ultimately making EU policies more realistic and effective.

Organisations that know how to engage with the European Parliament can also form strong relationships with MEPs to access valuable information about what’s happening in Brussels, and strategically prepare for upcoming changes.

In the same way, European citizens must not overlook the importance of casting their individual votes during EU elections. As one of the most powerful institutions in the world, the decisions made by the EU impact the lives of every citizen across the block’s 27 Member States, so your vote is your opportunity to influence your own future.

A Quick Refresher on How the EU Works

Before we dive into how you should engage with European institutions, it is important to briefly understand how the EU works.

The first thing to know is that the EU operates through seven official institutions:

  1. European Council
  2. European Commission
  3. European Parliament
  4. Council of Ministers
  5. Court of Justice of the European Union
  6. European Court of Auditors
  7. European Central Bank

If this list seems overwhelming, don’t worry. You can focus on understanding how the first four entities work since they are the major players in guiding, designing, and approving EU policy, as we will see below.

The European Council

Composed of the heads of each Member State and the EU Commission’s president, the European Council serves as the strategic guiding body for the EU, determining its overarching priorities. Although the Council cannot directly pass laws, it will issue broad calls for action and set goals for specific matters that are then addressed by other institutions, such as the Council of Ministers and the European Commission.

The Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers represents Member States and, in collaboration with the European Parliament, co-decides on EU laws. It evaluates proposals from the Commission and reflects on European Council conclusions, making it instrumental in shaping EU legislation.

The European Commission

As the EU’s executive body, the European Commission is responsible for proposing and implementing policies. Comprising a college of Commissioners and numerous Directorate-Generals, the institution is dedicated to advancing the interests of the EU as a whole, rather than that of individual Member States. It is also tasked with evaluating the potential impacts of new legislation and ensuring communication with stakeholders, such as Member States, industry representatives, and the general public.

The European Parliament

The European Parliament consists of directly elected Members who represent EU countries in proportion to their population. It oversees the European Commission and participates in the co-decision process, which allows it to approve, amend, or reject laws submitted by the Commission.

How to Engage With EU Policymakers and Get Your Voice Heard

While the EU welcomes participation from the public at every step of the legislative process, joining the conversation as early as possible will give you the best chances of influencing the EU priorities for the next EU mandate. EU businesses should start engaging with legislators immediately, before their attention begins to shift towards the electoral process.

Below are our best tips to help you get your voice heard in the EU Parliament, even as a small business. The first three tips are the most relevant for this pre-election period and deserve urgent attention. Due to the legislative hiatus expected during the elections, tips 4 to 6 can be implemented once the Parliament resumes its normal operations.

  1. Define your priorities and asks – Companies should think about the high-level priorities that the EU should focus on during the next parliamentary term – be it the area of climate, biodiversity impact assessment, chemicals, etc. Once your organisation has identified its priority policies, describe them in the form of a high-level position paper.
  2. Find the right people to focus on – Identify the key policymakers in the policy area relevant to your business, determining who the experts are in your field across political parties, national delegations, and committees. You can use sources like social media, newsletters, industry networks, webinars, and MEP registers to find your most influential policymakers. Once they have been identified, share your organisation’s position papers with them.
  3. Team up with like-minded organisations – Beyond engaging with MEPs and Commission officers, influencing what happens in Brussels requires you to learn how to collaborate with all the stakeholders in the policymaking process. Connect with industry peers and independent organisations that share your values and goals, so you can address the EU institutions as a group and hold more sway.
  4. Stay well-informed – Monitor the latest developments in Brussels and do not wait until the legislative process starts to connect with the policymakers. Long before the legislation arrives at the Parliament, political groups will have already drafted their own initiative reports that can help you understand their position on the subject.
  5. Build strong relationships – The Parliament works through committees of MEPs responsible for new policy proposals in specific areas, and names one member the “rapporteur” to lead the negotiations. Introduce yourself to the committees in your area of interest, arrange one-on-one meetings with rapporteurs and stay in touch with your contacts.
  6. Establish long-term visibility – Relationships take time to build, and consistent interaction with the EU institutions is essential to becoming an influential stakeholder. Engage with policymakers throughout and beyond the policymaking process, attend relevant events, and look into establishing thought leadership through blogging and social media.

Last, but certainly not least, our best advice for successfully engaging with policymakers is to get expert help. Although it’s possible to do it on your own, monitoring the EU landscape and building a strong presence in Brussels demands an amount of effort and expertise that can challenge even the largest organisations. Enlisting the help of a seasoned public affairs team, such as Ohana’s, will not only yield faster and better results but also provide you with expert guidance to develop sustainability strategies that will keep your business ahead of the game.

Want someone with deep experience and connections in the EU to help guide your sustainability strategy? Get in touch!

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