10 things you should know about the European Parliamentary elections

Claudia Delpero, Europe Street
Claudia Delpero, Europe Street - [email protected]
10 things you should know about the European Parliamentary elections
This photograph taken on May 29, 2024, shows a giant poster announcing the upcoming European elections, on the facade of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, eastern France. Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

From June 6th to 9th, millions of people across Europe will go to the polls to elect members of the world's only multinational parliament. So what's at stake and how do the elections work?


Why is there a European Parliament?

The European Parliament is one of three institutions of the European Union that makes laws. The European Commission proposes laws that are then debated, amended and approved (or rejected) by the EU Council, made of government ministers, and the Parliament. As it is a legislative chamber, it was decided that the Parliament should be directly elected. The first election was in 1979, before then members were appointed by national parliaments.

How many countries are represented?

Citizens from the 27 EU countries elect the European Parliament (MEPs), the only multinational parliament in the world.

How does it work with languages?

There are 24 official EU languages used in the European Parliament, even though English is increasingly used in meetings. The idea is that every MEP can express themselves in the native languages, because every EU citizen can stand for election. Also, EU citizens should be able to access legislation in their respective languages. Hundreds of interpreters and translators work at the European Parliament.

How many members are elected?

720 members will be elected in 2024 for a 5-year mandate. The distribution of seats takes into account each country's population. Germany will elect the largest number (96), while Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta the smallest (6). France will elect 81, Italy 76, Spain 61, Sweden 21, Austria 20 and Denmark 15. Ireland will elect 14.


Where is the European Parliament seat?

While the common reference is to Brussels, where most EU institutions and a parliament seat is located, the official seat is in Strasbourg, where the majority of plenary sessions take place. This is because the European Parliament was initially hosted by the Council of Europe (a separate international institution not related to the EU). A change in the current arrangements requires changing the treaty, which can only be decided unanimity by EU countries.

If you want to know why the parliament is in two different places you can listen to our team from France explain it in this podcast below (head to the 12 minute mark).


What does the European parliament do?

The European Parliament passes – together with the EU Council – laws that apply across the EU. Examples include rules on consumer protection, on air and water quality, on artificial intelligence, on digital privacy and on moving within the bloc. Unlike other parliaments, it cannot directly propose legislation, but can make recommendations in this regard to the European Commission. Sometimes these are based on petitions from citizens or special inquiries. The Parliament also approves trade agreements with non-EU countries and the EU budget. It has an oversight over other EU institutions and votes the confidence (or censure) of the European Commission.

Are MEPs from national or European parties?

The elections take place at country level with national parties running. These can be affiliated to European parties and join political groups in the European Parliament with others of similar ideas. There are currently seven political groups in the European Parliament.

Who will come out on top in the 2024 election?

In the current parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP), the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the liberals of Renew Europe make up the majority. Polls suggest that the right and far right will make significant gains in 2024, but it is not clear yet whether this will change the existing majority. Key to determine new alliances will be the EPP, if they move to the right. French far right leader Marine Le Pen recently suggested an alliance of the European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) and the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group, but even with the EPP they will not reach a majority based on current polls.


How many people vote?

More than 370 million people are eligible to vote. In 2019 the turnout was 50.6%, more than in the previous three elections, but less than the 61.9 percent turnout in 1979. Turnout is usually lower than in national elections.

Who can vote?

EU citizenship is required to vote in the European Parliament elections. The minimum voting age varies between 16 in Belgium, Germany, Malta and Austria, 17 in Greece, and 18 in other EU countries. The modalities of the vote are decided by each country and not all allow citizens abroad to vote. EU citizens who live in another EU member state can choose to vote in their place of residence or the country of origin, but it is illegal to vote twice. People with dual citizenship have to make sure they are registered with the authorities of their EU nationality to be able to vote. All the details on how to vote are available here.

For more on the 2024 European elections across Europe visit The Local Europe's special election web page.



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