Determining the EU’s future: The upcoming European elections

Article written by Mark Abdilla – Executive, MEUSAC
Published on The Malta Independent – 02.02.19

The European Parliament is a democratically elected institution, where candidates are elected as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for a five-year mandate. Every Member State has a set amount of seats within the Parliament, which serves as a proportional representation of the population of that Member State. Malta is currently allocated six seats. MEPs form part of political groups, which represent various political parties across the Member States. The results of the elections determine the formation of the Parliament, and which political group enjoys a majority of seats. During the current mandate, this majority belongs to the European People’s Party (EPP).

The Parliament is an integral player in the EU decision-making process. One of its main functions is found within its role in the appointment of the President of the European Commission. While this nomination is first proposed by the European Council, which represents the Heads of State and Government of EU Member States, the nominated candidate is then elected by the European Parliament. The nomination is usually based on the results of the elections, with the candidate hailing from the political group which won the majority of seats within the Parliament. Current European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was the EPP’s candidate for the role of Commission President during the last Parliament elections in 2014.

The European Commission has the right of initiative, and can make legislative proposals, which are then scrutinised by the Parliament and the Council of the EU. The President of the European Commission is therefore able to determine the political priorities of the EU throughout their mandate. Current European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker focused on 10 primary priorities, including the strengthening of the Digital Single Market, added stimulus to jobs and investment, and the achievement of a European agenda on migration. This highlights the importance of the European Parliament elections, as their results are a first step towards setting out such political priorities, which would define the EU’s political direction for a five-year period.

This important role also extends to the choice of Commissioners joining the elected President. Following the election results, each Member State nominates a candidate to the Commission. All candidates are then subject to a hearing in Parliament (commonly referred to as grilling). Thus, the formation of the Parliament based on the results of the elections directly influences the appointment of the Commission. This continues to strengthen the role of the Parliament in the formation of the EU’s political trajectory.

In terms of the EU’s ordinary legislative procedure, which is the general decision-making process adopted by the EU’s institutions, the Parliament is an important actor. After a proposal is made by the Commission, the Parliament can propose amendments to this proposal, before it is sent to the Council for its consideration. The Council, which represents the EU Member States, negotiates with Parliament to reach agreement on the final legislation to be adopted. The Parliament’s role here is significant, as it enjoys the decision-making power of the Council. This translates to democratic power for EU citizens, whose choice during the EP elections can drive the political direction of the EU for a five-year period.

The Parliament also plays a key role in the process of determining the EU’s budget, through the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). The Parliament sets out its expectations on the basis of proposals made by the Commission, and tries to reach an overall agreement on budgetary parameters with the Council. Negotiations are currently ongoing on the MFF for 2021-2027, with Parliament highlighting various priorities for the new budget, such as retaining current financing for the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Looking towards the different roles played by the Parliament within the framework of the EU’s different structures and procedures, the upcoming elections are evidently quite important. The results will determine the formation of the Parliament for the years to come, and this will directly influence the appointment of the next Commission, the final decisions to be made on the EU budget, and the EU’s political direction at a very crucial time.

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