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Freshfields Risk & Compliance

| 4 minutes read

The European Parliamentary elections: A shift in power dynamics

More than 200 million European citizens cast their votes over four days to elect 720 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for the next five years. With voter turnout at around 51%, comparable to the 2019 election, the results signify substantial shifts in the European political and policy landscape of Europe.

Here are our key takeaways from the European Parliament election results.

Continuity and change in the centrist coalition

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) emerged stronger than anticipated, securing an estimated 186 seats and solidifying its position as the most influential group in the European Parliament. This strengthens the likelihood of continuing the existing centrist coalition with the Socialists & Democrats and Renew Europe (Liberals), who together hold 403 seats, surpassing the required threshold of 361 for a majority. However, potential policy splits, especially on agriculture and energy, could see the EPP seeking support from far-right groups.

The far-right surge

Far-right parties, represented by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID), made significant gains, capturing 73 and 58 seats respectively. Their rise is particularly notable in France, Germany, Italy, and Austria. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France gained 12 seats, becoming the largest national delegation with a total of 30 seats. In Germany, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) increased its representation, trailing only behind the conservative CDU/CSU (EPP). Italy’s Brothers of Italy, led by Giorgia Meloni, boosted the ECR’s standing with an additional 14 seats.

Far-right parties campaigned on a platform of stricter migration controls, increased defence spending, and tighter EU budget regulations. The coherence of their collaboration moving forward remains uncertain, especially given their differing stances on key issues such as relations with Russia. The presence of non-attached MEPs, such as those from AfD and Fidesz, who collectively represent one-quarter of the Parliament, further complicates the potential for a unified far-right bloc.

The green backlash

The election results dealt a blow to the Greens, who lost 19 seats, reducing their total to 53. This decline reflects voter backlash against the European Commission’s ambitious Green Deal and climate transition initiatives. The most significant losses were in France and Germany, indicating a shift towards climate-sceptic parties.

Socialists maintain second place

The Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group retained its position as the second-largest political grouping with 135 seats. Their stable support was particularly strong in Spain and Italy, while they faced losses in Germany. Despite these changes, the Socialists remain a crucial component of the centrist coalition.

Liberals no longer kingmakers

Renew Europe (Liberals) faced significant losses, dropping 23 seats to hold a total of 79. Despite these losses, they retained their position as the third-largest group, albeit under threat from the rising far-right. Their diminished influence challenges their role as kingmakers in the European Parliament, particularly as many of the non-attached MEPs are likely to join either ECR or ID.

National government impacts

The election results have significant implications for national governments. In France, the collapse of support for President Macron’s party has triggered a snap parliamentary election, potentially leading to the far-right securing the role of Prime Minister. In Germany, the poor performance of the governing coalition could prompt early elections (currently scheduled for 2025). Conversely, the results have bolstered national governments in Italy and Poland, and to a lesser extent in Spain.

In Hungary – which will take over the Council Presidency from Belgium on 1 July – the far-right Fidesz party maintained its majority despite losing some seats, signalling growing opposition to Viktor Orbán. In the Netherlands and the Nordic countries, socialist and green parties retained support, limiting anticipated far-right gains.

Policy implications and next steps

The election outcome suggests that security and competitiveness will dominate the EU policy agenda. This includes reducing dependencies on non-democratic countries through initiatives like a ‘Buy European Act’.  On security, we can expect heightened promotion of cyber security with a focus on digital infrastructure and AI, as well as potential for re-evaluation of data transfers, which could also be impacted by a US Trump Presidency. The green agenda is likely to slow, with a focus on implementation rather than new legislation, except in areas of broad consensus like PFAS and microplastics regulation, and circular economy initiatives.

EU leaders are scheduled to meet informally on 17 June to discuss leadership roles, including the European Commission and the Parliament, with formal decisions expected during the 27-28 June European Council. Ursula von der Leyen remains a frontrunner for the European Commission Presidency, pending commitments to other political groups and support from EU Heads of State. However, her confirmation will require strategic negotiation and coalition-building.

Roberta Metsola’s (EPP) re-election in Malta secures her position as President of the European Parliament, increasing the likelihood of a Socialist Council President, with António Costa and Mette Frederiksen as top contenders. Mario Draghi's prospects for a top EU role have diminished following the setbacks for his primary supporter, President Macron.

The European Parliamentary elections mark a pivotal moment in shaping the future political and policy landscape of the European Union. The strengthened EPP, the rise of the far-right, and the shifting influence among political groups will define the direction of the EU for the coming years.

Freshfields will continue monitoring developments in Europe and elsewhere as crucial elections take place around the world. We will follow up with more information and analysis as the results are finalised, and as the formation of political groups takes shape. Visit our 2024 election supercycle page to stay up to date with the developments in Europe and elsewhere as elections take place around the world.




2024 elections, europe