One year to go to the 2024 european elections: What’s on the defence agenda?

One year to go to the 2024 european elections: What’s on the defence agenda?

The next European Parliament elections will be held between 6 and 9 June 2024. As every five years, European citizens will select 705 parliamentarians to serve from 2024 to 2029, which makes it the largest transnational vote in the world.

By doing so, they could shake up the political landscape as the Socialists and European People’s Party could lose influence, mainly to the far right.

The European People’s Party could also move away from it’s tacit pro-EU coalition with the center left and eyes alliance with the far right.

But what issues will determine the votes? Sierra Tango identifies the topics that will be at the heart of the campaigns and votes.

A shifting focus on Defence and Autonomy

As it is usual, we can expect domestic politics to weigh heavily in the postures of national political parties. But with the COVID pandemic and the Russian aggression against Ukraine, there is a bigger trend toward European issues.

Important decisions on health, economy, environment, energy prices and even security have been taken at EU level, affecting all European citizens. « While the campaigns will be fought at national level by national parties, the concerns are harmonizing across the continent. We will have more European elections than before », analyse one diplomat.

Many European political parties agree that the bloc should support Ukraine, so this subject might not be very controversial nor the center of attention. However, connected to it comes thematics as EU defence, EU enlargement and the extent of EU autonomy. And there, debate could be more animated.

Defence and how to defend the EU will certainly be a prominent question in the campaign. In recent years, the EU has considerably expanded its commitment to defence matters. With Russia’s war against Ukraine, consensus among the 27 and the citizens has grown on the need to invest more in EU defence and security as an answer for pursuing EU strategic autonomy. For many political parties, positions are already established and should remain the same after the 2024 EU elections.


Insights into recent major votes and political trends

Let’s illustrate those positions by analysing the vote in the European Parliament plenary in favor of a fast adoption for “Act in Support of Ammunition Production” (ASAP). 446 MEP voted in favor, just 67 lawmakers voted against, with 112 abstaining.

EPP, S&D and Renew in large majority voted in favor. Same goes for the ECR group. On the far right (Identity and Democracy group), only the Italian’s Liga voted in favor. The rest of the group was divided and voted against or abstained. This is true among MEP of the same national groups like Germany’s member of AfD or France’s Rassemblement National.  In the Left group, no MEP voted in favor of the proposal but the group got divided, voting against or abstaining, as usual by nationalities. Among the Greens, the majority decided to abstain while only 8 MEP (Italian and Spanish) voted against the proposal.

However, the tendency in favor of defence is starting to show its limits. The negotiations around EDIRPA, a key element to strengthen the European defence market via joint procurement incentives, is a good example of it.

First due to tensions inside the European Parliament to decide which committee has the lead, and then objections made really difficult for MEP to find a compromised position, introducing a delay in the procedure that has resulted been to the detriment of the instrument.

Moreover, this file should be solved before the elections campaign even start. Meaning that all the Commission proposals on EU defence and industry should be adopted by then. As a consequence, there is a risk that campaign debate will remain very theoretical on the need for a more integrated defence and defence industry, without entry into details of the European Defence Fund utilisation, nor the work of the European Defence Agency. Issues way too technical and far from EU citizens’ daily life worries.

On the same line, we do not expect EU international actions for peace and security, as its missions and operation in Africa or the Balkans, to be raised during the campaign. 

Other issues to be monitored

The fight against climate change will certainly be one of the main topics of the campaigns and debates. Linked to this, but also to trade and to the relations with third countries like China or Russia, one can expect migration as well as EU economy to be a central issue.

Protection of EU democracies and desinformation should also be high in the agendas as already shown with European Parliament vote calling for EU’s resilience to foreign interference and information manipulation. 

What is not yet clear is how the corruption scandale and especially the Qatargate will impact the trust in the institution and mobilisation. However, with MEP Eva Kaily free from monitoring bracelet, many observers believe participation should not be impacted.

The latest Eurobarometer data released on 6 June showed indeed that there is increased awareness of European elections and increased interest in them compared to 2018, with the figures now reaching 45% and 56% respectively.