Explainer: From trade to climate, five takeaways from the EU election

Reuters || Shining BD

Published: 6/10/2024 6:27:34 AM
People gather on the Place de Republique following the results of the European elections, in Paris, France June 9, 2024. REUTERS/Abdul Saboor

People gather on the Place de Republique following the results of the European elections, in Paris, France June 9, 2024. REUTERS/Abdul Saboor

The European Parliament took a shift to the right after a four-day election concluded on Sunday, with more eurosceptic nationalists and fewer mainstream liberals and Greens.

The parliament's most important role is reviewing and approving new legislation and it generally comes up with amendments on which it and EU governments need to agree before EU regulations or directives can enter force.

The EU assembly will also need to approve the next president of the European Commission - most likely incumbent Ursula von der Leyen for a second term - and their 26 other commissioners.

The rightward shift could have a bearing on a series of important policy areas in the next five-year term.


The next five years will be crucial for determining whether Europe achieves its 2030 climate change targets.

The EU spent the last five years passing a bumper package of clean energy and CO2-cutting laws to hit its 2030 targets, and those policies will be hard to undo.

But a more climate-sceptical EU Parliament could attempt to add loopholes to weaken those laws, since many are due to be reviewed in the next few years - including the bloc's 2035 phase-out of the sale of new combustion engine cars, which faced criticism during the EU election campaign, including from lawmakers in von der Leyen's centre-right political group.

The European Parliament will also negotiate with EU countries a new, legally binding target to cut emissions by 2040. That goal will set the course for a future wave of policies to curb emissions in the 2030s in every sector, from farming, to manufacturing, to transport.


Foreign and defence policy are primarily the domain of the EU's member countries, not the European Parliament. So the election result should not have any immediate impact on EU support for Ukraine or military matters.

However, the Parliament will have a role to play in plans to encourage pan-European cooperation between countries and companies on defence projects and to get governments to buy more European military kit. The European Commission's Defence Industrial Programme, which aims to realise those goals, needs the consent of both EU governments and the European Parliament.

Gains for parties that oppose greater European integration may make these ambitions more difficult to achieve. Similarly, for the Commission's plans to carry any real clout, they will need serious money from the next long-term EU budget, which must also be approved by the Parliament.


The European Parliament's principle role in EU trade policy is in approving free trade agreements before they can enter force. It is not directly involved in trade defence, such as the imposition of tariffs.

The European Commission and some EU leaders argue that the bloc needs more trade agreements with reliable partners to make up for lost business with Russia and to reduce dependence on China.

A number of trade agreements are still waiting for approval, such as with Mexico and the South American bloc Mercosur, while the European Commission is also seeking to strike deals with the likes of Australia.

All those deals, and the Mercosur agreement in particular, have faced opposition and pushing them through parliament could be even more difficult with greater numbers of nationalist eurosceptics.


The European Commission argues that the EU needs to present a united stance towards major rivals such as China and the United States, particularly if former President Donald Trump returns to the White House.

It also says the European Union needs a clearer unified industrial strategy to remain a major industrial base for green and digital goods as rivals pump in massive subsidies.

Critics say the nationalist right-wing parties advocate a looser, more fragmented Europe that will be less able to rise to these challenges.


The EU needs to reform its internal agriculture policy and the way it supports its members to equalise standards of living before it admits new countries, especially big ones such as Ukraine, because the current system of transfers is already seen as too costly.

To admit new members - Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkan countries - the EU will also need to change how it makes decisions, reducing the need for unanimity, which is proving increasingly difficult to achieve.

If such reforms are proposed in the next five years, the parliament will have a crucial role to play in shaping them and a stronger voice of the far-right, which opposes deeper EU integration, might have an important impact.

Shining BD