The European Parliament elections took place between 6 and 9 June 2024. While the results are still coming in, the provisional data indicates that even though the traditional parties have retained their majority in the hemicycle, the more radical groupings on the right have gained more ground. This is in line with opinion polling carried out over previous months, which predicted a surge in support for the more Eurosceptic parties.

With the caveat that there are a large number of uncertainties and moving pieces, this article analyses the outcome of the 2024 European Parliament elections and what effect this may have on the 2024 – 2029.

Provisional results      

The data currently available to us indicate that the Centre-Right European People’s Party (EPP) will remain the largest political grouping in the European Parliament, with 186 out of 720 seats. The EPP is followed by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), who are expected to have 135 seats. The liberal Renew retains its position as the third-largest grouping with 79 seats, followed by the right-wing European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) which go from 69 to 73 seats in the hemicycle. The Eurosceptic Identity and Democracy (ID) gained 9 seats and will now hold 58 seats in the European Parliament. Following a surge in seats in the 2019 European Parliament elections, the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens) will now occupy 53 seats and become the sixth-largest grouping. The Left will hold 36 seats in the next European Parliament. Finally, 100 seats go to parties that are not affiliated with any of the political groupings (NI). As a reminder, the numbers above may change over the coming weeks as the political parties may regroup and non-affiliated parties may decide to join a political family. With no political group having a majority of votes (361) the composition of the European Parliament is relevant for the future -and inevitable – coalition-building exercises that will occur in the course of the decision-making processes.

Zooming in on Member States, clearly the most newsworthy – and politically important – are the results of the poll in France, where the radical-right National Rally Party secured a major win and prompted President Macron to call snap elections at the end of June. In Germany, the election results of the governing coalition were dwarfed by those of the Christian-Democrat CDU and the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany, which became the largest and second largest, respectively. In Italy, the conservative right-wing Brothers of Italy of prime minister Georgia Meloni came first. In Poland, the ruling democratic coalition secured a victory over the Eurosceptic PiS party and in the Netherlands the combined Labour Party (PVDA) and GreenLeft (Groenlinks)gained more votes than the Eurosceptic Freedom Party, which is about to form a four-party extra parliamentary coalition government at the national level.

Final results are expected over the course of this week as Member State official election authorities publish the national results following the counting of all votes.

Next steps: appointment of the new European Commission

The outcome of the European Parliament elections will have an influence on the leadership of the European Commission, with the President candidate – designated by the heads of states or governments of the 27 Member States – will need to secure parliamentary approval for his or her mandate. The so-called Spitzenkandidaten process links the results of the European Parliament elections with the post of the European Commission’s Presidency. All of the biggest European political groups have nominated their candidates ahead of the vote – with the incumbent Ursula Von der Leyen having been put forward by the EPP and currently being considered a frontrunner – but the final decision will be taken at the European Council level, where a candidate will be nominated during the 27 – 28 June Council Summit. Following the nomination, the European Parliament will vote on the endorsement of the European Commission President nominee. This vote is tentatively due to take place on 18 July 2024.

Following the endorsement by the European Parliament, the President-designate will form a (proposed) College of Commissioners, also in close cooperation – and lots of negotiations – with Member States. The Commissioner-candidates will have to undergo hearings by the newly-constituted committees of the European Parliament and will have to secure individual committee approvals before a vote on the College of Commissioners as a whole takes place in the plenary.

In addition to the European Commission, the presidents of the European Council and the European Parliament, as well as the president of the European Central Bank, will also be appointed in the coming months.

Policy direction for the next Commission term

The marked shift to the right in the European Parliament elections will inevitably translate itself in the European Commission’s policy agenda for the upcoming five-year term and the indications of how it is likely to be shaping up will become clearer in the coming weeks as political negotiations on the key appointments progress. To secure the European Parliament’s backing for her candidacy for the European Commission’s President, Ursula Von der Leyen is expected to make concessions to the ECR Group. It is expected that this will result in a Commission mandate that is less focused on sustainability and the environment, but more on policies and programmes that will provide further support to European manufacturing, security and agriculture. Strategic autonomy, a policy goal that has emerged after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis, will remain the ambition for the next European Commission. It is likely that this will result in more global economic competition. Meanwhile, the European Commission is expected continue its work on reaching the climate-neutrality goal by 2050 through the European Green Deal, but with an increased focus on the impact that sustainability policies have on businesses and farmers. In the area of financial services, the expected trend for the new European Commission is a continued evolution rather than revolution, with focus on the implementation of the previously agreed legal acts and prospective legislative activities likely to focus on targeted areas of the Capital Markets Union.

Next steps

As stated above, the European Parliament elections were a first step in the renewal of the leadership of the EU institutions. The coming months will witness many rounds of negotiations, votes and hearings that will ultimately result in a new European Commission. An indicative timeline of the most important dates (subject to change) are listed below.

  • 17 June: Informal European Council Summit. The leaders from the 27 Member States will discuss the next legislative cycle and potential candidates for the Presidencies of the European Commission, the European Council and the European Central Bank.
  • 27 – 28 June: Formal European Council Summit. The leaders are expected to appoint candidates for the Presidencies of the European Commission, the European Council and the European Central Bank.
  • 16 – 19 July: First European Parliament plenary session: election of the new European Parliament President and other European Parliament office holders. As indicated above, a vote on the European Commission President-designate may be held on 18 July. By this time, the outline of the next European Commission’s policy agenda may be presented.
  • July – August: should a Commission President be appointed on 18 July, the Commission President will select European Commissioners-designate from each of the Member States. Each Member State normally nominates its Commissioner-designate.
  • 02 – 12 September: European Parliament committees will organise public hearings to scrutinise the Commissioners-designates.
  • 16 – 19 September: European Parliament plenary session. This is the earliest opportunity for the European Parliament to vote on the endorsement of the College of Commissioners as a whole.
  • 01 November: New College of Commissioners to start its work.