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Everything you need to know: Your guide to the 2024 European elections

The June elections will elect the 720 Members of the European Parliament.
The June elections will elect the 720 Members of the European Parliament. Copyright Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
By Jorge Liboreiro
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The European elections may be in full swing, but getting to grips with how they work isn't always easy. This guide from Euronews tells you everything you need to know.

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The continent-wide elections - where 720 Members of the European Parliament will be elected - are underway. This is an increase from the current Parliament's makeup of 705 MEPs, a change implemented to accommodate demographic changes in several member states.

The Parliament is the only institution in the EU that is directly elected by voters. The other two main bodies are indirectly elected: the composition of the European Commission requires the approval of MEPs while the Council is made up of national ministers designated by their respective governments.

The three institutions work hand in hand – not always amicably – to advance legislation in a wide field of areas, such as climate action, digital regulation, migration and asylum, the single market, environmental protection and the common budget.

Here is your deep dive into the 2024 elections.

When will the elections be held?

This year's European Parliament elections are being held from 6-9 June and are organised according to the electoral rules of each member state. Voters will choose the representatives of their country in open, semi-open and closed lists. A push to introduce transnational lists did not gain traction.

European Elections: Voting dates across Europe

Polls opened in the Netherlands on Thursday, 6 June, followed by Ireland on Friday, 7 June. Latvia, Malta and Slovakia are voting on Saturday, 8 June. The remaining countries - which include France, Germany and Spain - will cast their votes on 9 June, the big Sunday.

The Czech Republic and Italy will allow voting on back-to-back days: Friday and Saturday for the Czechs, and Saturday and Sunday for the Italians.

What's the minimum age for voters?

Like the day you head to the polls, minimum voting age depends on your nationality.

In the majority of member states, the minimum age for voters is 18 years old. However, in recent years, a handful of countries have lowered the threshold in a bid to boost turnout. In Greece, people aged 17 or older are allowed to vote. And in Belgium, Germany, Malta and Austria, the cut-off age has been set at 16.

By contrast, the minimum age to stand as a candidate to the Parliament ranges from 18 years old, in countries like Germany, France and Spain, to 25 years old in Greece and Italy. All EU citizens have the right to stand for office in another EU country if they are residents there.

Does this mean more people will vote?

That's one of the burning questions in Brussels. The EU elections have for decades been saddled with low participation rates. In 2019, the figure stood at 50.66%, the first time it surpassed the 50% threshold since 1994.

This year, the bloc hopes to, at least, reach again the 50% mark. In practice, this will mean 185 million ballots out of the estimated 370 million eligible voters.

The youth are considered a key demographic to increase turnout. This explains why EU officials have set their (overly ambitious) sights on Taylor Swift and other A-list celebrities to convince Gen Z and millennials to get out and vote.

Is voting mandatory?

Voting is mandatory in only four member states: Belgium, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Greece. This provision is enforced with leniency and does not necessarily translate into higher numbers. In 2019, Greece posted a 58.69% turnout, and Bulgaria just 32.64%.

Still, voting is highly recommended to make your voice heard.

The European Parliament is the only institution in the bloc that is directly elected by citizens.
The European Parliament is the only institution in the bloc that is directly elected by citizens.Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Can I vote from abroad?

As a general rule: yes, you can. But it changes from country to country.

All member states, except the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria and Slovakia, allow their citizens to cast their votes in embassies and consulates abroad, a step that often requires pre-registration. (Bulgaria and Italy only enable this option within another EU country.)

At the same time, Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden allow voters to send their ballots by post. In some cases, the mailing costs can be reimbursed.

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Additionally, Belgium, France and the Netherlands authorise the use of proxies: a person who is unable to go to the polls can designate another person to vote on their behalf.

As of today, Estonia is the only EU nation that offers e-voting.

On the other hand, there is a minority of member states that have no option whatsoever to vote from abroad: the Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta and Slovakia.

For more information on how to vote, check the Parliament's dedicated website.

When will we know the results?

The results of the elections will not be announced until Sunday evening. This prevents countries that vote earlier in the race from influencing the outcome of the latecomers.

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The services of the European Parliament intend to publish the first partial estimations at 18:15 CET on Sunday and the first projection of the full hemicycle at 20:15 CET. This data will combine estimated votes and pre-election opinion polls.

By 23:00 CET, once all stations in all member states have closed, we will have a reliable, comprehensive look at the composition of the next European Parliament.

What happens after the elections?

Shortly after the elections are over, national authorities will communicate to the Parliament who has been elected (and who has been disqualified) so that the hemicycle can begin to constitute itself.

MEPs have to organise themselves into political groups according to their ideology and priorities. These groups have to include a minimum of 23 lawmakers from at least seven countries. Those who are left out will be considered "non-inscrits" (or "non-attached") and will have less prominence in debates and committees.

The current hemicycle has seven groups: the European People's Party (EPP), Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Renew Europe, the Greens/European Free Alliance, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), Identity and Democracy (ID) and The Left.

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The 10th legislature will start on 16 July, the date of the first plenary sitting. That day, the 720 MEPs will elect the Parliament's president, 14 vice-presidents and five quaestors.

The first sitting will last until 19 July and will see the selection of committees and subcommittees. But the chairmanship positions, which the main groups traditionally divvy up in a game of horse-trading, will be announced in the days following the plenary.

What about the Spitzenkandidaten?

Back in 2014, the EU decided to try something new for a change: ahead of the parliamentary elections, each party was asked to publicly designate a lead candidate, or Spitzenkandidat in German, to preside over the European Commission, the bloc's most powerful and influential institution.

This pre-selection, the thinking went, was meant to make the Commission more democratic and accountable in the eyes of European voters.

After the EPP won the elections with 221 seats, EU leaders respected the novel system and appointed Jean-Claude Juncker, the party's lead candidate, as Commission president. The hemicycle then approved his bid with an absolute majority.

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However, in 2019, things took a surprising turn: the EPP's declared nominee, Manfred Weber, was unceremoniously pushed aside by EU leaders (most notably, France's Emmanuel Macron). The rejection led to the surprising appearance of Ursula von der Leyen, who had been totally absent during the race.

Von der Leyen's appointment, which survived the hemicycle by a razor-thin margin, prompted analysts and journalists to pronounce the Spitzenkandidaten dead.

The 2024 race comes with an attempt to revive the system: this year, von der Leyen will run as a lead candidate. The socialists, the Greens and the Left have also taken steps to put forward a presidential hopeful. But some other groups, like Renew Europe and ID, continue to shun the system, as it has no basis in the EU treaties.

Regardless of where the candidate comes from, the Parliament intends to hold a plenary session between 16 and 19 September to allow the appointee to make their political pitch and earn the endorsement of, at least, 361 of its 720 members.

If the Commission president is elected in that session, the Parliament will begin the hearings of Commissioner-designates according to their assigned portfolios. In 2019, three proposed names were rejected during the vetting process.

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Once all Commissioner-designates have survived the hearings, which can stretch for hours and turn acrimonious, the Parliament will hold a vote of confidence on the entire College of Commissioners for a five-year mandate. Only then will the new Commission take office and the legislative work will kick start.

Video editor • Mert Can Yilmaz

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