13 Dezember 2023

Roadmap to the 2024 European elections

By Manuel Müller
This article describes the roadmap to the European elections as of December 2023. For a continuously updated version, see here.
Save the date: The next European elections will take place from 6 to 9 June 2024!

Last weekend marked exactly six months until European citizens vote for the tenth time to elect the European Parliament. The stakes are high: According to the latest polls, the far-right camp could do better than ever before, which could also affect the balance of power within the informal “grand coalition of the pro-European centre” on which most of the Parliament’s decisions are based.

But the election will not only decide the composition of the Parliament, it will also play a decisive role in the appointment of the next European Commission. Whoever wants to lead the next European executive should come out on top in three stages: In the primary season, the European parties adopt their manifestos and nominate lead candidates. This is followed by the electoral campaign in the spring of 2024, when the candidates present themselves to the European public. However, the real decision in the race for the Commission presidency will only happen after the election – when a candidate must secure a majority both in the European Parliament and among the heads of state and government in the European Council.

Here is an overview of the most important dates and events. To jump directly to the current position in the calendar, click here.

Primary season

By now, the lead candidates system has become a normal part of the EU democracy: For the third time, European parties will nominate candidates for the Commission presidency. Whether one of these candidates actually wins the job will, of course, depend on the majorities after the election. But it is clear that this time the European Parliament wants to make the process work – and that any potential candidate would therefore be well advised to secure the support of their party in good time.

The exact procedure and timetable for these lead candidate nominations varies from party to party. Most of them do so on European party congresses, where they also adopt their election programme – often referred to as “manifesto”. The primary season is already in full swing and will continue until spring 2024.

13 October 2023:
EDP: party congress in Mainz
As in 2014 and 2019, the European Democratic Party, part of the centrist Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, has not nominated an own lead candidate.

13-14 October 2023:
EFA: party congress in Strasbourg
The European Free Alliance has nominated two lead candidates:
  • Raül Romeva (ERC, former MEP and former foreign policy representative of the Catalan regional government),
  • Maylis Roßberg (SSW, currently Secretary General of the EFA youth organisation).
However, Romeva is not allowed to hold public office until 2031 due to a conviction in Spain for sedition and embezzlement of public funds. He would therefore not be able to accept a mandate at European level either.

20-21 October 2023:
ALDE: party council in Bucharest
At the party council, the ALDE finalised the procedure for appointing its lead candidate.

10-11 November 2023:
PES: party congress in Málaga
With the congress in Málaga, the PES launched the process for nominating its lead candidate. Applications are possible until 17 January 2024.

24 November 2023
ID: party congress in Lisbon
As in 2014 and 2019, the ID has not nominated a lead candidate and is unlikely to adopt a joint manifesto.

28 November 2023:
EGP: closing date for lead candidate applications
Four applicants were proposed by their respective national parties or EGP sub-organisations to become EGP lead candidates:
  • Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks, currently MEP),
  • Elīna Pinto (Progresīvie, currently communication officer at the representation of the European Commission in Luxembourg),
  • Terry Reintke (Grüne, currently leader of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament)
  • Benedetta Scuderi (Europa Verde, currently chair of the EGP youth organisation FYEG, which has also proposed her as a lead candidate).
In the next step, candidates must submit declarations of support from at least five other national EGP member parties by 7 January.

2 December 2023:
EGP: online party congress
At the online congress, the four candidates introduced themselves to the party members.

3 December 2023
ID: campaign event in Florence
As in 2014 and 2019, the ID has not nominated a lead candidate and is unlikely to adopt a joint manifesto.

7 January 2024:
EGP: closing date for the submission of support declarations
Potential EGP lead candidates must submit declarations of support from at least five other EGP member parties (in addition to the member party that has proposed them). Candidates who receive the necessary endorsements will be eligible to stand at the party’s electoral congress on 2-4 February.

17 January 2024:
PES: closing date for lead candidate applications
Potential PES lead candidates must submit their applications by 17 January. Nicolas Schmit (LSAP, currently EU Commissioner for Employment) and Katarina Barley (SPD, currently Vice-President of the European Parliament) are seen as possible candidates.

2-4 February 2024:
EGP: party congress in Lyon
Party congress delegates nominate two lead candidates and adopt the EGP manifesto.

February 2024:
EL: nomination of the lead candidate(s)
The EL party executive is expected to nominate one or more lead candidates, proposed by their respective national member parties, at the end of February.

Spring 2024:
EPP: party congress in Bucharest
Party congress delegates will nominate the lead candidate and adopt the EPP manifesto. If Ursula von der Leyen (CDU, currently Commission President) decides to seek a second term in office, the EPP is likely nominate her as its lead candidate. However, she has not yet officially declared her candidacy.

Spring 2024:
PES: party congress
Party congress delegates nominate the lead candidate and adopt the PES manifesto.

20-21 March 2024:
ALDE: party congress in Brussels
Party congress delegates nominate the lead candidate and adopt the ALDE manifesto.

ECR: party congress
The ID will not nominate a lead candidate and it is unclear whether they will adopt a joint manifesto.

Electoral campaign

In the past, European election campaigns have been fought mainly at national level – and this is likely to also be the case in 2024. However, a number of events in the weeks leading up to the election are likely to resonate across Europe and could influence the campaign.

21-22 March 2024:
European Council meeting
The spring meeting in Brussels is the last European Council before the elections. As always in the spring, the agenda focuses on economic and social policy, but other topical issues may also be discussed.

April/May 2024:
TV debates
As in 2014 and 2019, the European Broadcasting Union EBU (known as the producer of the Eurovision Song Contest) will probably organise a televised debate with the lead candidates of all European parties. The date is still open. It is up to each national broadcasters participating in the EBU to decide whether they will broadcast the debate.
Also as in 2014 and 2019, there are likely to be further TV debates organised by individual national broadcasters.

6-9 June 2024:
European Parliament election
As usual, the European elections are held separately for each member state, with specific electoral rules varying from country to country. Most countries, including Germany, will vote on Sunday, 9 June.

After the election

Once the Parliament has been elected, the crucial phase of appointing the new Commission will begin. Whoever wants to become Commission President must now organise a majority in two institutions: among the heads of state and government in the European Council and among the members of the European Parliament. The latter, however, must first organise themselves into new political groups. Once the Commission president has been elected, the way will be open for the appointment of the other commissioners.

June 2024:
Group formation in the European Parliament
After the elections, the political groups in the European Parliament (re-)constitute themselves and recruit new members. This process is particularly interesting for parties that have entered the Parliament for the first time and don’t belong to a European party yet. Also other national parties sometimes use this phase in order to change groups. At least 25 MEPs from seven countries are needed to form a group; all current political groups are expected to reach this quorum again in 2024.

June 2024:
Majority formation in the European Parliament
At the same time as the political groups are reconstituting themselves, the European Parliament also has to find a majority to elect the new Commission president. While the three largest groups quickly reached a consensus in 2014, forming a majority was much more difficult in 2019. Negotiations in 2024 are likely to focus once again on the four groups of the pro-European centre (EPP, S&D, RE, Greens/EFA). An alternative centre-right majority (EPP, RE, ECR) could be arithmetically possible but is politically less plausible.
In 2019, the four groups of the pro-European centre also negotiated a formal coalition agreement with joint legislative projects, but ultimately failed to reach an agreement. It is possible that such negotiations will take place again in 2024.

27-28 June 2024:
European Council meeting
At the first European Council meeting after the election, national leaders are expected to propose an official candidate for the Commission presidency. This requires a qualified majority (approval by 55% of the members whose countries represent 65% of the EU's population).
  • If there is already a clear majority in favour of a particular candidate in the European Parliament, the European Council is likely to propose that person as president of the Commission. The European Council could also nominate another person instead, but this is unlikely as the nominee would certainly be rejected by the Parliament.
  • However, if there is no clear majority for a particular candidate in the European Parliament, the national leaders would be freer in their decision. In this case, they could propose a compromise candidate who was not a lead candidate in the election campaign.
At the same time, the heads of state and government will also nominate a new EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and elect a new president of the European Council. Together with the Commission presidency, these posts are often referred to as the “EU top jobs”. The nominations usually form a package that is balanced in terms of party affiliation (EPP, PES, ALDE), country groups (western and eastern, northern and southern, large and small member states) and gender.
In 2019, the European Council also included proposals for other posts in this package, such as the Commission vice-presidents or the president of the Parliament. As a new NATO secretary general will also need to be appointed until October 2024, this could also unofficially become part of the package. Formally, however, only the proposals for the three “top jobs” fall within the remit of the European Council.
At the meeting on 27-28 June, the European Council will also adopt its Strategic Agenda for 2024-29.

July 2019:
Election of the Commission president
Following the nomination by the European Council, the proposed Commission president will face a vote in the European Parliament, which is expected to take place shortly before the summer recess.
  • If the candidate wins a majority, he or she becomes Commission president-elect.
  • If the candidate does not win a majority, the European Council (again acting by a qualified majority) must nominate a new candidate within one month, who is then voted on by the Parliament. This procedure is repeated until a candidate wins a majority in both the European Council and the Parliament.
Before the vote, the candidate usually gives a speech to outline his or her political guidelines for the term.

Summer 2024:
Nomination of the Commission members
After the election of the Commission president, the other members of the European Commission are nominated. The Commission consists of one commissioner from each member state. According to art. 17 (7) (2) TEU, the list of proposed commissioners is adopted jointly by the EU Council “on the basis of the suggestions made by member states”. In practice, however, each national government nominates its “own” Commissioner and the Council merely rubber-stamps the proposals.
Once the Commissioners have been nominated, the Commission president-elect assigns them portfolios. In practice, this is partly a process of negotiation with the national governments, which propose suitable commissioners depending on the portfolio assigned.

Fall 2024:
Parliamentary hearings
After the list of commissioners is finalised, the European Parliament votes on their election. Formally, the Parliament can only approve or reject the college of commissioners as a whole. In the event of rejection, the Council must propose a new list.
In practice, however, the Parliament can also reject individual candidates. To this end, proposed Commissioners are “grilled” in committee hearings by the MEPs responsible for their portfolio, usually over several hours. If a committee is unhappy with a candidate, the Parliament informally asks the Council to amend the list of commissioners before voting on the Commission as a whole. Since 2004, this has been the case after every European election. Every time, the Council (or rather the national government of the country concerned) has complied with the Parliament’s request and nominated an alternative candidate.

Fall 2024:
Election of the Commission
Once all the committees have signalled their approval of the candidates they have questioned, the plenary of the European Parliament votes on the new Commission. If a majority of MEPs vote in favour, the new Commission can take office. The term of office is five years – until the European elections in 2029.

The road to a new European Parliament and Commission is still long and full of variables. This timetable will therefore be updated after each of the dates mentioned. You can find the updated text here.

Picture: Ballot box: By Isabela.Zanella [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons [retouched].

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