Out-Law News

European elections should elicit business response

Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni campaigning in Rome.

Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni campaigning in Rome. Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Businesses operating in the EU have been advised to prepare for a change in the political – and policy – landscape ahead of the European Parliament elections due to take place later this week.

Mark Ferguson of Pinsent Masons, a specialist in public policy, said scenario planning and stakeholder mapping exercises can help businesses across sectors get ahead of EU legislative change already on the agenda and ensure their voices are heard on other future policy.

The European Parliament elections are being held across the 27 EU member states between 6 June and 9 June 2024. In total, 720 MEPs will be elected, up from the previous number of 705.

Prospective MEPs from across the different EU countries generally fall into one of a number of different political factions – by grouping together, those politicians are often able to influence policy direction. Ferguson said that recent polling indicates that there will be a significant shift in the composition of the next parliament.

The European People's Party (EPP) and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) are projected to remain the largest parties, while the Renew Europe and Greens groups are projected to experience notable losses, primarily at the expense of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID) groups. Ferguson said that if the polling is reflected in the formal vote, there would be an overall shift in the parliament’s political leaning to the right – a departure from the centrist makeup of the previous assembly.

Once the new MEPs have been elected, the focus will gradually shift to the appointment of the next European Commission president and their commissioners. Current Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has the support in the European Council to be re-elected, however the outcome of the European Parliament elections will be influential in determining her support among MEPs and ultimately her re-election.

Mark Ferguson

Head of Reputation, Crisis, and Client Operations

Engaging with the European Commission now can provide a strategic advantage. Companies should focus on scenario planning, stakeholder mapping, and defining clear policy asks

Ferguson said it will be into the second half of 2024 before the new Commission's policy priorities are set. He said a tilt to the right in the European Parliament could influence the Commission's approach to a range of policy areas – priority areas for new policy over the next five years are expected to include: security and defence; global engagement; resilience and competitiveness; energy; migration; and EU enlargement.

Ferguson said some specific new legislation that is likely to materialise under a von der Leyen presidency includes new climate legislation where a new 2040 climate goal is expected to be proposed, as well as a new Biotech Act, Digital Networks Act and a Critical Medicines Act.

Some legislative initiatives that have already been commenced will also carry over for completion in the next European Parliament and Commission presidency term. This includes proposed reforms to the EU’s general pharmaceutical legislation, as well as revisions to the Waste Framework Directive designed to improve the environmental sustainability of food and textile waste management.

“Businesses must adapt to the evolving political and policy landscape,” Ferguson said. “Engaging with the European Commission now can provide a strategic advantage. Companies should focus on scenario planning, stakeholder mapping, and defining clear policy asks. In a time of political noise, forging new relationships and educating policymakers is crucial. Cost-neutral policy solutions and a thorough understanding of reputational risks are essential for businesses to navigate the changing tides.”

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