What are the issues? 

Between June 6 and June 9, citizens of the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) will vote to elect the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who will represent them in the EU’s 720-member legislature. With 400 million eligible voters, these are the second-largest democratic elections in the world after India. 

Although the number of voters is substantial and the campaign issues—such as migration, environmental policies, and the powers of various EU institutions—have a distinctly European dimension, these elections are, in practice, 27 national elections occurring simultaneously to elect the same body. As a result, national perspectives, issues, and parties will take precedence during the campaign. However, once elected, the MEPs will take their seats in Brussels and Strasbourg, the official locations of the Parliament. There, they will deliberate and vote on European legislation proposed by other EU institutions: the Commission, which functions as both the civil service and executive branch of the EU, representing the “European greater good,” and the European Council, comprised of the heads of state and governments of the 27 Member States, which holds the real power within the EU. 

Once in office, each national party delegation will join the group of the wider European party they belong to. For example, Germany’s CDU will sit with their center-right colleagues in the European People’s Party (EPP), while Italy’s Fratelli d’Italia (the party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni) will sit with more conservative colleagues in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). There are currently seven European parties represented in the European Parliament, and one of the key issues of this election will be which ones gain (or keep) prominence within the Parliament and which coalitions can form a majority. 

Why should we care? 

Despite their significance for EU governance, European elections generally fail to excite most citizens, historically recording the lowest voter turnout among all elections. This may be due to the fact that European voters often have a limited understanding of the complex structure of European politics, where compromise between parties and countries is essential to produce legislation. It is also because the European Parliament does not have the powers of a sovereign parliament (for example, it cannot raise taxes) and because, despite its large regulatory power, the EU delegates most legislative implementation to member states. 

This lack of public interest is misguided because the European Parliament has wide legislative powers and is often engaged, directly or indirectly, in debates about the EU’s external relations. For example, the European Parliament suspended the ratification of the Commission’s Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China due to human rights abuses committed by the Communist Party regime in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as sanctions imposed on MEPs following their criticisms. 

What can be done? 

The elections to the European Parliament are the first step in the selection process for the President and Commissioners of the European Commission (Europe’s civil service) and key posts such as the chairperson of the European Central Bank, the EU’s top diplomat, and the President of the Council. These upcoming elections are particularly important because they are expected to reflect a significant, though limited, shift to the right, with potential consequences mostly, but not solely, on the EU’s internal agenda. 

Regardless of the election results and the subsequent negotiations that will determine the EU’s leaders for the next five years, it is crucial to engage with parliamentarians and EU officials to strengthen the Transatlantic link, which remains the strongest alliance in the world. 

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