Tips for working with the newly elected European Parliament

By Claire Fourçans

On 9 June 2024, a new European Parliament was elected by citizens around the EU. The anticipated spectacular rise of the far-right did not materialise whilst the centre-right party did  strengthen. As a result, the political balance in the European Parliament remains more or less the same: a coalition of the centre-right group, the European People’s Party (EPP), and the centre-left group, the Socialist and Democrats (S&D), with the support of the Renew group, composed of centrists and liberals is expected to continue governing. However, some early warnings of ad-hoc coalitions of conservatives, reactionaries and populists on topics like climate, agriculture and migration have been floating around. Note that the composition of the new European Commission, particularly its top jobs, seems less likely to bring surprises than anticipated. But, let’s wait and see. The EU institutions always have a few surprises up their sleeves. 

The question for advocates and campaigners now is how they can create relationships with this new EU leadership, particularly with newly elected MEPs. It is an art, not a science to create those types of relationships, but we have identified a few tips which can be of use for those fighting for a positive change in the world.

Seize the opportunity

Most advocates and campaigners will want to be the first to approach newly elected MEPs. A different approach is needed depending on whether you are going back to MEPs who have done a previous mandate, and you want to restore an existing relationship, or if it’s a new MEP, and you’re looking to build a new one. 

From experience, brand new MEPs are a bit lost in the labyrinth of corridors of the European Parliament (I should say Parliaments to cover both Brussels and Strasbourg) but very motivated to leave a footprint and change the face of the EU. Your best approach is to make yourself useful and propositional. Obviously, you need to know which MEP could be a supporter and a driver of change in your area.

Returning MEPs will want to continue the work they have started in their previous mandate and probably reinforce any position of power they had. They will however need to adjust to a slightly different landscape and coalition dynamics. This also presents an opportunity. 

Identify who can bring change

In the early weeks of the European Parliament, MEPs will be assigned to Committees, Political Group leaders and the Presidency. They might also join intergroups by thematic or focus area. You need to watch this out carefully and identify who you want to create a relationship with in regard to their position in Committees, political groups and national delegations. 

Background research about MEPs in positions useful in your areas is critical. Take the time to research their interests, previous public positions and the priorities expressed during the election campaign. If they are returning MEPs, you should be clear on which  files they have previously led on the questions they have put forward and their electoral promises for this new mandate.

Reach out with a proposal

An MEP’s favourite sentence is “what can I do for you?” But what they’re also thinking is “what can you do for me?” You need strong answers to those two questions when you reach out to an MEP. They are looking for opportunities to make a change and shine, while you need someone who can champion the positive change you want to see in the EU and the world. So you should aim to create a win-win situation for your organisation and the MEP. It’s a collaboration you are proposing, not for the MEP to do the job on their own or drive your policy asks with no support. 

Make sure you have identified how this change can be achieved: is there legislation in the making? Was this topic an important aspect of the elections campaign which the MEP is looking to implement somehow? Make sure your research on MEPs is matched with research on the process for getting where you want to be. It’s about marrying a power mapping exercise and a path for change where the European Parliament has a role to play. The same is true for the European Commission if you want to push for a specific agenda in its upcoming work programme. You can also count on the European Parliament for this, as each Commissioner candidate will need to be vetted after a hearing with MEPs. What about starting the collaboration with an MEP by proposing some questions for the relevant candidate Commissioner?

Watch the agenda

We know the new European Commission will probably take office in its full composition only at the end of 2024 and that no formal work programme will emerge until then. However, the candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission should present their priorities to the European Parliament mid-July. It is important to analyse how these priorities would coincide with yours and what could be an entry point for your cause in the work of the new Commission.

Some key areas for work in the next mandate are already clear to all: Defense is a new priority of the EU since the war in Ukraine. It is likely that a new Commissioner role will be created in order to lead on the development of a EU joint Defense Strategy. It is also likely that the environment and the climate crisis, one of the big priority areas of the previous Commission, will remain a key issue while the Green Deal might undergo some “recalibration” to fit a new political landscape and the current economic and energy crisis. Tech issues will also certainly remain high on the agenda to ensure EU’s leadership in the sector but also implementation of ground-breaking legislation adopted in the previous mandate like the AI Act and the Digital Services Act. And, last but not least, the next EU long-term budget is up for renewal by late 2026 which will certainly bring intense negotiations around the budget for agriculture in 2025 onwards.

The priorities set by the new European Commission will shape the work of the other institutions and will determine the focus of the European Parliament in the next 5 years. Being aware of these priorities is key to being seen as a credible interlocutor by EU decision-makers. Knowledge is key here as, once you are positioned as a useful source of information and support by MEPs, you can develop the relationship with them and their team. Keep in touch regularly, share intelligence and thoughts about recent developments. The better you know the MEP, the easier this relationship will be. Obviously, only as far as it remains a win-win situation for you too! So be clear about what can be achieved together. And change the world, step by step!

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