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Editorial: European Elections 2024

By Sara Campeti and Andrzej Drzewieniecki


Ahead of the elections to the European Parliament in June 2024, we want to bring you an insightful coverage of the intricate state of play behind these elections. Together with Studio Europa, we are bringing you an extensive investigation into the prospects and the state of, Spitzenkandidat procedure.



Unpopular elections


European elections rarely garnered a lot of attention. If not in terms of media coverage, then definitely in terms of sluggish voter turnout. It is hard to blame the Europeans – the bureaucratic day-to-day in Brussels is indeed quite mundane, and if anything, it is more often accused of democratic deficit than praised for its policies.


Yet, the times have changed – Europe is at war. Common prosperity belongs to the past. The fuel of the “peace dividend” ran out, and the Old Continent must brace for new security threats. Unsurprisingly then, the 2024 European elections are looked at with a keener eye. Especially so, with an increasingly “NATO-skeptic” camp among the possible Trump II administration.


Regardless of the exact results, it is clear that Europe’s upcoming parliamentary term will be an unprecedent test to the Union’s institutions, laws, and cohesion.


Who's doing what?


The role of the European parliament has been seen by some as ceremonial and irrelevant. Not without reasons – European agenda is mostly steered by the Council and the Commission. Still, in the post-electoral landscape the Parliament could come to the fore, mainly through the Commission’s President appointment. Enter the Spitzenkandidat procedure.


Although not inscribed into law, the procedure confers the European parliament the power to elect new Commission's chief (more on that in Dana Belinschi’s Explainer article).


The incumbent Ursula Von Der Leyen, however, was not the Spitzenkandidat of the European People’s Party.  The procedure worked only once, in 2014, when upon electoral victory of the EPP, lead candidate Juncker received Parliament’s approval (see more in Tobias Pardoen’s Feature Article).


Certainly, the procedure gives the Commission an appearance of electoral mandate, but is also possible only thanks to multi-party, multi-interest compromises. With the far right being the bigger player at the table, this could mean an election of a more right-skewed candidate. Some think this would mark the beginning of the end of the United European Project.


However, Ville Rajala claims in his op-ed, that 2024 is now-or-never for the Spitzenkandidat procedure. A custom once abandoned, hardly reemerges in the same guise. Brussels, then, might face a familiar dilemma: bolster democratic legitimacy or prioritize the stability and security of the European project. Either choice can end up costly.



A word of optimism though, at least for the euro-enthusiasts. Even vocal eurosceptics seem to gravitate towards moderation once confronted with the prose of politics. Ask Georgia Meloni – once a far-right menace, now defending from her rightist comrade Salvini. One could hope that whoever seizes power in autumn will realize the urgency and danger of the current situation. After all, we repeat it like a prayer – “Europe will be formed in crisis”.



Written by Sara Campeti & Andrzej Drzewieniecki

April 2024




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