Roadmap to the 2024 European elections

By Manuel Müller
This text will be updated as new events occur. Last update: 30 April 2024.
Less than 100 days left: The next European elections will take place from 6 to 9 June 2024!

In early June 2024, European citizens will 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
The congress of the European Democratic Party was used to discuss party-internal affairs and to prepare the campaign. The presentation of the electoral manifesto and the nomination of a leading candidate will only take place at a party convention in Florence in early March.

13-14 October 2023:
EFA: party congress in Strasbourg
At the party congress, the European Free Alliance adopted the election manifesto and 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 Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe finalised the procedure for appointing its lead candidate.

10-11 November 2023:
PES: party congress in Málaga
With the congress in Málaga, the Party of European Socialists 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 Identity and Democracy party congress did neither nominate a lead candidate nor adopt a joint manifesto.

27 November 2023:
Volt: general assembly in Paris
The general assembly delegates elected a new party board and adopted the European electoral programme. The Volt lead candidates for the European Parliament election were only nominated in April 2024.

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 lead candidates of the European Green Party:
  • 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
National ID party leaders met for a common campaign event in Florence.

7 January 2024:
EGP: closing date for the submission of support declarations
Potential EGP lead candidates had to submit declarations of support from at least five other EGP member parties (in addition to the member party that had proposed them). All four contenders received the necessary endorsements and will therefore 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 had to be proposed by one member party and endorsed by eight others by 17 January. Nicolas Schmit (LSAP, currently EU commissioner for employment and social affairs) was the only one to meet this requirement and will therefore become the PES lead candidate. Katarina Barley (SPD, currently vice-president of the European Parliament) was also considered a possible candidate, but did not submit an application. Schmit will be formally elected as the PES lead candidate at a party congress in March.

27 January 2024:
PPEU: general assembly in Luxembourg
The delegates of the European Pirate Party’s general assembly adopted a common electoral programme and nominated two lead candidates:
  • Marcel Kolaja (Piráti, currently a member of the European Parliament),
  • Anja Hirschel (Piraten, currently an employee of an IT company and a city councillor in Ulm).

2-4 February 2024:
EGP: party congress in Lyon
At the party congress, the European Greens adopted their electoral manifesto and nominated two lead candidates:
  • Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks, currently MEP),
  • Terry Reintke (Grüne, currently leader of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament).
Eickhout (57% of the delegates’ votes) and Reintke (55%) prevailed over Elīna Pinto (Progresīvie, currently communication officer at the representation of the European Commission in Luxembourg, 24%) and Benedetta Scuderi (Europa Verde, currently chair of the EGP youth organisation FYEG, 20%).
Moreover, the party congress admitted two new member parties to the EGP: Možemo from Croatia and DSVL from Lithuania).

21 February 2024:
EPP: closing date for lead candidate applications
Potential lead candidates of the European People’s Party had to be proposed by their respective national party and supported by to additional EPP member parties by 21 February.
On 19 February, the incumbent Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) presented her application. She was proposed by the German CDU and supported by the Polish PO and the Greek ND. Since she is the only contender, she is certain to be nominated as lead candidate at the EPP congress in early March.

22 February 2024:
ECPM: board meeting
The board of the European Christian Political Movement nominated Valeriu Ghilețchi (no national party, currently ECPM party chairman, former member of the Moldovan parliament) as its lead candidate. However, as Ghilețchi is not a citizen of the European Union, he cannot become a member of the European Commission.

24-25 February 2024:
EL: general assembly in Ljubljana
The general assembly of the European Left, consisting of the party executive and the leaders of the national member parties, has adopted its election manifesto and nominated Walter Baier (KPÖ, currently EL party chairman) as its lead candidate. Baier was the only contender for the position.

1-2 March 2024:
PES: party congress in Rome
Congress delegates have adopted the PES manifesto and endorsed Nicolas Schmit (LSAP, currently EU commissioner for employment and social affairs) as their lead candidate. As Schmit was the only candidate to submit an application, he was endorsed by acclamation rather than a formal ballot.

6-7 March 2024:
EPP: party congress in Bucharest
The delegates of the EPP congress have adopted the EPP manifesto and nominated Ursula von der Leyen (CDU, currently EU Commission president) as their lead candidate. Von der Leyen had been the only contender to submit an application and was elected by 400 votes to 89. Of the 801 EPP delegate members, 737 were entitled to vote, but only 499 took part in the ballot; 10 votes were invalid.

7 March 2024
ID: lead candidate nomination
The ID parliamentary group has announced that Anders Vistisen (DF, currently a member of the European Parliament) will represent ID in the lead candidate debates to which the party has been invited.
While Vistisen is de facto taking on the role of lead candidate, representing the party during the campaign, the ID group insists that he is not a candidate for the Commission presidency, as the right to nominate for this position should only belong to member states. Moreover, given its political outsider position, ID does not expect to obtain any EU top job anyway.

7-8 March 2024:
EFA: general assembly in Brussels
During the general assembly, the EFA lead candidates Raül Romeva and Maylis Roßberg presented the election manifesto, which had already been adopted in October 2023.

8 March 2024:
EDP: party convention in Florence
The delegates of the EDP convention have adopted their election manifesto and nominated Sandro Gozi (IV, currently a member of the European Parliament) as their lead candidate. Together with the ALDE lead candidate and a candidate of the French Renaissance party, Gozi will belong to the “Team Europe” of the common campaign of the Renew Europe group, which will be launched in late March.

20-21 March 2024:
ALDE: party congress in Brussels
The delegates of the ALDE congress have adopted their election manifesto and nominated Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP, currently a member of the German Bundestag and a candidate for the European Parliament) as their lead candidate. Strack-Zimmermann had been proposed by her party on 11 March and was the only contender for the role. Previously, Xavier Bettel (DP, currently foreign minister of Luxembourg) and Kaja Kallas (RE, currently prime minister of Estonia), who were also seen as possible candidates, had ruled themselves out.
Strack-Zimmermann, the EDP lead candidate, and a candidate of the French Renaissance party will together form the “Team Europe” of the common Renew Europe campaign.

20 March 2024:
RE: campaign kick-off in Brussels
The Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, comprising the European parties ALDE and EDP as well as additional national parties, organizes a common electoral campaign. The launch of the joint campaign took place in the framework of the ALDE party congress. It included the adoption of a common platform and the presentation of a “Team Europe”, which consists of one candidate from each of the three parties.
  • The ALDE lead candidate, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP, currently a member of the German Bundestag and a candidate for the European Parliament), had been nominated at the ALDE party congress immediately before the launch of the joint campaign.
  • The EDP candidate, Sandro Gozi (IV, currently a member of the European Parliament), had been nominated at the EDP party convention on 8 March.
  • Valérie Hayer (currently leader of the RE group in the European Parliament and national lead candidate of the French Renaissance party for the European elections) was appointed to represent the national RE parties that do not belong to either ALDE or EDP. Previously, Thierry Breton (currently EU Commissioner for the Internal Market) had also been seen as a possible candidate.

7 April 2024:
Volt: campaign launch in Brussels
At their campaign launch event, Volt nominated two lead candidates: Damian Boeselager (Volt Germany) and Sophie in ’t Veld (Volt Netherlands, both currently MEPs). In addition, the party presented a symbolic “transnational list” with candidates from 20 different member states.

17 May 2024
ECR: party council in Strasbourg
The ECR party council has adopted the election manifesto. The party does not nominate a lead candidate.

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 in Brussels
The spring meeting in Brussels was the last regular European Council before the elections. The agenda included support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s war of aggression, security and defence, the unfolding situation in the Middle East, enlargement, external relations, migration, agriculture and (as always in the spring) the European Semester. In December 2023, the European Council had agreed to also dedicate its next meetings to the question of internal EU reform. However, a reform roadmap will only be decided after the European elections at a later meeting of the European Council.

3-4 April 2024:
NATO foreign ministers meeting
At their meeting to mark the 75th anniversary of the organisation, NATO foreign ministers discussed the appointment of the next NATO secretary general, who is due to take office in October 2024. The favourite for the post is Mark Rutte (VVD/ALDE, currently acting prime minister of the Netherlands), who is supported by most major member states. However, his candidacy is openly opposed by Hungary, which would prefer a candidate from Central-Eastern Europe. This sentiment is shared by several other countries of the region.
Possible alternatives are Krišjānis Kariņš (V/EPP, currently foreign minister of Latvia) and Klaus Iohannis (PNL/EPP, currently Romanian president), who have both applied for the post. Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas (RE/ALDE), who was seen as another potential contender, has declared her support for Rutte’s candidacy.
While EU and NATO are different organisations, the NATO appointment is likely to have an impact on the upcoming “EU top jobs” negotiations.

17-18 April 2024:
Special meeting of the European Council in Brussels
At their last meeting before the election, the heads of state and government discuss foreign policy as well as the Letta report on the future of the single market. The meeting was also meant to prepare the Strategic Agenda for 2024-29, which the European Council plans to adopt in June.

22-25 April 2024:
Last plenary session of the outgoing European Parliament
The plenary session at the end of April was the last opportunity to complete legislative procedures before the European elections. The agenda included several issues from agricultural to industrial and sustainability policy, including the due diligence directive and the net-zero industry act, as well as an extension of the free-trade agreement with Ukraine. However, unlike in many national parliaments, unfinished business can be taken up again in the next parliamentary term.

29 April 2024:
Lead candidates: Maastricht debate
The lead candidates of most European parties met in Maastricht for a web-streamed debate organised by Studio Europa Maastricht and Politico. A recording of the debate is available here.

23 May 2024:
Lead candidates: Eurovision debate
As in 2014 and 2019, the European Broadcasting Union EBU will organise a new edition of its Eurovision debate format, a televised debate with the lead candidates of all European parties. It is up to each national EBU member to decide whether they will broadcast the debate. The debate starts at 15:00 CEST and takes place in the plenary chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels. The Parliament will also be web-streaming the debate on its website.
Also as in 2014 and 2019, there could 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. Specific electoral rules, including the opening hours of the polling stations, vary from country to country. Most countries will vote on Sunday, 9 June.
From 18:15 CEST on 9 June, the European Parliament plans to publish national exit polls and projections on its website. (In countries voting on 6, 7 or 8 June, unofficial national results are likely to be circulating already before then.) The first projections for the EU-wide result will be published from 20:15 CEST. However, polling stations in Italy will not close until 23:00 CEST, so the full picture of the next European Parliament is likely to emerge only around midnight.

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.

13-15 June 2024:
G7 summit in Apulia
A few days after the election, a Group of Seven (G7) summit will take place in Italy, attended by the heads of state and government of Germany, France and Italy as well as outgoing Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (CDU/EPP). The G7 is not organisationally linked to the EU; the other G7 members (USA, Canada, UK, and Japan) are not part of the EU. However, the summit provides a forum for possible informal agreements between the three largest EU member states with a view to the informal meeting of the European Council a few days later.

17 June 2024:
Informal meeting of the European Council
Members of the European Council will have a first “informal meeting” one week after the election. While no formal decisions will be taken at this meeting, the heads of state and government are expected to discuss their candidate for the Commission presidency.
  • If a clear majority in favour of a particular candidate is already emerging in the European Parliament, the European Council is likely to nominate that person as Commission president. 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 also 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 discuss who will become the new EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and the 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. This year, the post of NATO secretary general is also likely to be part of the negotiations. Formally, however, only the proposals for the three “EU top jobs” fall within the remit of the European Council.

27-28 June 2024:
European Council meeting
At the first official European Council meeting after the election, national leaders are expected to formally propose candidates for the Commission presidency and for the role of EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, as well as elect the new European Council president. These decisions all require a qualified majority (approval by 55% of the members whose countries represent 65% of the EU’s population).
Moreover, the European Council will also adopt its Strategic Agenda for 2024-29. A roadmap for internal institutional reforms with a view to EU enlargement is also to be drawn up over the summer and could therefore be on the agenda at the summit.

16-19 July 2024:
First plenary session: Election of the Commission president
Following the nomination by the European Council, the proposed Commission president will face a vote in the European Parliament. This is expected to take place during the first plenary session of the new Parliament, 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 one 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.

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

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