European Parliament elections: the EU’s legislative branch perspectives

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For three days this month- between 6 and 9 of June- millions of European citizens in 27 member states are taking part in electing more than seven hundred EU-wide members of the parliament showing their interests in “shaping European future”. The EU-wide direct elections of the European Parliament as one of the most vital legislative EU institutions represent a specific period in the life of Europeans in taking a collective decision on the future of the socio-economic integration.  

Background
During three days in June, millions of citizens from the beaches of Portugal to the cities of Sweden, from Bulgaria in the Black Sea to Rotterdam in the Atlantic, etc. will cast their vote to elect 720 European Parliament members, so-called MEPs. The newly elected MEPs will legislate on most vital issues shaping European future and the integration process, such as climate change, AI, green and digital transition, migration and clean energy, to name a few.
This year has been an important period for European and global democracy: e.g. more than half of the world’s population will head to the polls with elections set to take place in over 50 countries, including the EU-27.
While any election at any time holds significance, the present era of multiple crises raises the stakes for this mammoth year of voting. For example attention to the EP elections deserves a new-look at the EP’s content, in which the far right is likely to be a larger player, and this trend in politics will make the work of the whole EU institutional setup quite complicated with the EP’s role in the EU legislative process dramatically changing: suffice it to say that in about a third of the EU states the “right” forces are dominating… Eurosceptic parties are expected to gain this elections; however, the process of “framing” the EP elections as a battle between pro- and anti-European parties seems unwise for the “pro-European” supporters.
However, competitive Europe is only possible if taking into common account on climate, environmental and social aspects, as the European strength in the world lies in its trailblazing capacity rooted in robust social and environmental policies.

Some expectations
Already in January 2024, Politico revealed some expectations for the number of MEPs in June-elections in the European Parliament, EP. Out of 705 perspective MEPs, the following numbers are most probable: – European People’s Party, EPP (leader: Manfred Weber) – 171; – Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, S&D (leader: Iratxe García) – 141; – Identity and Democracy, ID (leader: Marco Zanni) – 90; – Renew Europe, RE (leader: Valérie Hayer*) – 82 (in January 2023, there were 101 MEPs in the group); – European Conservatives and Reformists, ECR (leadership: Ryszard Legutko & Nicola Procaccini) – 78; – Greens – European Free Alliance, Greens/EFA (leadership: Terry Reintke & Philippe Lamberts) – 43; the Left in the European Parliament, Left-GUE/NGL (leadership: Manon Aubry & Martin Schirdewan) -32. Non-inscrits, NI and the new unaffiliated parties expected to have 40-43 each in total 720 MEPs.

Source: https://www.politico.eu/europe-poll-of-polls/european-parliament-election/

   *) Note. Former leader S. Séjourné has had a new occupation in French Foreign office; hence, at the end of January 2024, the Renew Europe Group in the EP is headed by Valérie Hayer as the group’s president. She is only the second woman to lead the Liberal and Democrat family in the EP, following Simone Veil, who led the Group of the Party of European Liberals and Democrats during 1984-89. V. Hayer becomes the youngest ever leader of the Liberal and Democrat faction in the Parliament; she has been a EP member since 2019. Affiliated with Renaissance in France, she was co-president of Renew Europe’s French delegation (L’Europe Ensemble) with Marie-Pierre Vedrenne from 2021; she also worked on the EU budget, as well as negotiated the MFF from the EP’s side; she is Renew Europe’s Budgets coordinator. Her other works include the protection of the rule of law, LGBT rights and the support for European industries.
Reference to: https://www.reneweuropegroup.eu/news/2024-01-25/valerie-hayer-elected-president-of-renew-europe.

Code of conduct for MEPs
Many of the 14 commitments in the Code of Conduct are inspired by Recommendation on inclusive and resilient electoral processes in the Union adopted in December 2023 in the framework of the Defence of Democracy Package.
Commission Vice-President V. Jourová hosted a signing ceremony of the Code of Conduct for the 2024 European Parliament Elections. With their signature, European political parties committed to upholding ethical and fair campaign practices. Against the backdrop of growing concerns about protecting the integrity of elections in Europe from internal and external threats, this commitment by political parties carries great importance.
The political parties that signed the Code of Conduct are: Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, European Christian Political Movement, European Conservatives and Reformists Party, European Democratic Party, European Free Alliance, European Green Party, European People’s Party, Party of European Socialist and Party of the European Left. Identity and Democracy declared that they will also join the Code of Conduct for the 2024 European Parliament elections.
For example, one of the commitments of the Code is that signatories will “encourage inclusive political discourse and participation by refraining from producing, using or disseminating discriminatory statements and biases against specific groups based on their gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”. Another example is the parties’ commitment to “refrain from running political ads sponsored by undeclared interests or otherwise engaging intermediaries to place campaign messages without attribution”.
The Code of Conduct will serve as a comprehensive checklist for political parties, candidates, media, and citizens to monitor ethical behavior throughout the election campaign. It was jointly developed and negotiated by Vice-President Jourová and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in close consultation with the European political parties.
On Code of Conduct in: https://commission.europa.eu/document/bebd9b72-fbb9-42f3-bcea-dbace7e0650f_en

This collective commitment of the European political parties sends a powerful message to citizens: MEPs need to uphold the integrity of EU’s elections in Europe; this agreement will help to build trust with voters and increase their confidence in the electoral process. Elections should set the stage for the competition of ideas, not dirty manipulative methods such as AI deep fakes, noted Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency.
Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/da/ip_24_1867

Local voices
During the EP’s electoral process, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, CEMR delivered an important message for the next MEPs and the Commission College. Bringing together the voices of one million local leaders, CEMR has advocated for ensuring that decisions made at the European level are fair and sustainable for local governments and their citizens since 1951. Mayors and local elected officials are at the forefront of responding to global challenges such as climate change and migration, translating policies into tangible actions on the ground. Besides, they are also responsible for implementing about 70 percent of EU legislation: thus, the CEMR is advocating for ensuring that the “local voices are heard” at every stage of the EU-wide decision-making process.
More in the 12-pages leaflet in: https://www.ccre.org/img/uploads/piecesjointe/filename/EU_Manifesto_CEMR_2023-0.pdf?msg_pos=2

At the same time, it has to be noted that this time the EP elections are taking place at a moment when European and world-wide democracy is confronted by unparalleled challenges. Thus, the EU policymakers need to further strengthen the EU Cohesion Policy and adhere to the ‘does no harm to cohesion’ principle when drafting new and revising existing legislation.
Following the investiture of the next European Parliament, the CEMR urges the new co-legislators to establish a “Public Service intergroup” focusing its work on improving local and regional public services.
Future EU co-legislators should encourage the next European Commission, set to take office in the autumn 2024, to nominate a dedicated Commissioner for Territorial Development with a clear mandate to drive the EU’s strategic and long-term Cohesion Policy.
Source: the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, CEMR opinion at: https://www.ccre.org/img/uploads/piecesjointe/filename/EU_Manifesto_CEMR_2023-0.pdf?msg_pos=2

Prognosis and conclusion
At the end of March 2024, the outcomes seemed the following way: EPP- 175, S&D- 140, ID- 85, RE- 82, ECR-79, Greens-EFA – 41, Left-GUE-NGL- 33; about 85 candidates are those non-affiliated and “uncertain”.
Source: https://www.politico.eu/article/voice-of-europe-russia-influence-scandal-election/.

The latest Standard Eurobarometer (22.05.2024) shows that Europeans want to see the EU stronger and more independent, especially in the face of the current global challenges, while they are growing optimistic about the future. Thus, more than three quarters of Europeans (77%) are in favour of a common defence and security policy among EU countries while over seven out of ten EU citizens (71%) agree that the EU needs to reinforce its capacity to produce military equipment.
At the same time, nearly seven out of ten EU citizens (69%) are for a common foreign policy of the Member States. More than two thirds of citizens agree that the EU is a place of stability in a troubled world (67%) and that the EU has sufficient power and tools to defend the economic interests of Europe in the global economy (69%).More than six in ten EU citizens (62%) are also optimistic about the future of the EU, marking a slight increase compared to the previous survey in autumn 2023. Their trust in the EU has also increased and is now at 49%, while trust in national governments is at 33%.
According to Europeans, security and defence (34%) is the priority area for the EU action in the medium term, followed closely by climate and the environment (30%); health (26%) comes third, economy and migration – fourth (both 25%). At the same time, almost half (46%) of all citizens think ensuring peace and stability will have the highest positive impact on their life in the short term, followed by securing food, health, and industry supplies in the EU (28%), creating more job opportunities, and managing migration (26%).
The perception of the situation of the European economy has improved since autumn 2023, with 47% of respondents now rating it as ‘good’, the highest level since 2019. A plurality of citizens (45%) think the European economic situation will remain stable in the next 12 months. The positive trend is also reflected by the stable high support for the euro, both in the EU as a whole (70%) and in the euro area (78%).
Generally, 77% of Europeans are in favour of a common defence and security policy among EU countries while 71% of EU citizens agree that the EU needs to reinforce its capacity to produce military equipment. At the same time, 69% of EU citizens are for a common foreign policy of the Member States. 67% agree that the EU is a place of stability in a troubled world and 69% that the EU has sufficient power and tools to defend the economic interests of Europe in the global economy.
Sources and references to: a) https://europa.eu/eurobarometer/surveys/detail/3216; and
b) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_24_2729.

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