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European elections 2024: The most important questions and answers

European elections 2024: The most important questions and answers

Elections will take place in just a few days. Hundreds of millions of citizens can cast their votes in the European elections and have a decisive influence on EU policy for five years.

The European elections are in less than a week. But what exactly will be voted on – and what won’t it be? What influence does the European Parliament have? An overview:

When will the European elections take place?

Votes can be cast from June 6 to 9 – on a different day depending on the country. The first to go are the Dutch, who can go to the polls on Thursday, June 6. This is followed by Ireland, and the day after that by Latvia, Malta and Slovakia. In the rest of the EU, like in Germany, the election will take place on Sunday, June 9. The different dates are intended to preserve different voting traditions in the countries. In Germany, the polling stations are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., as they are for federal elections.

Who vote?

For the first time in Germany, minors are allowed to vote in a European election. The minimum age for voting has been lowered from 18 to 16. This means that the number of eligible voters has increased from around 61.5 million in 2019 to almost 65 million people for the upcoming election.

Germany is one of the few countries where minors are allowed to vote. According to information from the EU Parliament in August last year, this is otherwise only possible in Austria, Belgium, Malta and Greece. The minimum voting age in Greece is 17. In total, there are almost 360 million people eligible to vote in the EU.

Germans who do not live in Germany and want to take part in the election must submit a formal application to be included in the voters’ register before each election. According to the Federal Returning Officer, there are different procedures depending on which country you live in.

Who will be elected?

720 MPs will be elected. In terms of sheer numbers, this is fewer politicians than in the last election, when 751 representatives entered parliament. However, with the UK’s exit from the EU, many MPs also lost their seats. Compared to the current number of MPs, 15 more seats will be awarded.

How are the representatives distributed among the states?

Germany is the country with the most voters and, as the most populous country in the EU, also has the most representatives. However, Germans are still underrepresented in parliament. While a German representative represents an average of roughly 875,000 people in relation to the total population, a representative from Malta represents just under 100,000. If this inequality did not exist, parliament would either have to be significantly larger or the citizens of the smallest EU countries would only be represented by one representative.

How is the election carried out?

This differs from country to country, and sometimes from party to party. In Germany, most parties put together lists nationwide, the order of which is determined at a party conference. The more votes a party receives, the more people from that list are elected. In the CDU/CSU, lists are not adopted nationwide, but at state level. A uniform rule across the EU is that the number of MPs for a party must be proportional to the number of votes received. There are no cross-state lists.

Who are the top candidates in Germany?

In addition to the large parties that are also represented in the Bundestag, there are a number of small parties that want to enter the European Parliament (again). An overview can be found here:

What impact will the election have?

The majorities that can be organized in Parliament have a decisive influence on new EU laws. For example, many current projects, such as the ban on combustion engines or controversial nature conservation and climate laws, required a majority in Parliament to approve them. Parliament also has a major influence on the distribution of money, such as the billion-euro EU agricultural subsidies.

However, most laws are negotiated together with the EU states and must also find a majority in the so-called Council. Representatives of the respective national governments make decisions there. The European elections have no direct influence on the majority situation in this institution.

However, Parliament can influence the composition of the EU Commission after the election. The authority has the sole right to propose specific EU legal acts, which are then negotiated by Parliament and the EU states. Although it is initially the responsibility of the heads of state and government to make a proposal for the president, Parliament can reject this. As a rule, a candidate from the ranks of the largest parliamentary group is also proposed.

The Council and the President-elect will then draw up a list of the remaining Commissioners, one from each EU country. The Parliament must also approve the appointment of the remaining Commissioners.

What national peculiarities are there?

In Germany, as in the Netherlands, there is no threshold. This means that as soon as a party receives around one percentage point, it can expect a seat in parliament. In the Netherlands, it takes just under 3.25 percent for a seat. Other countries, however, have a threshold. In France, for example, a party must receive at least five percent of the vote; in Austria, it is four percent. In addition, voting is formally compulsory in some EU countries. This is the case in Belgium, Luxembourg and Greece, for example.

Source: Stern

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