EU elections 2024: work in progress
We have a date for the next European Parliament’s elections, which will determine who will represent European citizens from 2024 to 2029. Election day(s) will be from 6 to 9 June 2024.
Everyone is trying to get ready and arrive prepared for this big day: even though one year has passed since Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted their position on a new electoral law in view of the next EU elections, political groups are still divided on some fundamental issues. The proposed law asks to “europeanise” the elections, creating transnational lists that allow citizens to vote for MEPs that are not from their own country. A big majority of political groups agrees that this electoral system would strengthen citizens’ voice, but the right-wing representatives argue that there is a risk of bigger Member States imposing themselves and their candidates over the others.
The Report was adopted by the EP in May 2022 plenary session: 323 votes in favour, 262 against and 48 abstentions.
In any case, this reform has to pass through the hands of the Council, which seems to be blocking debates on this draft law, and then the Parliament should consent to or reject this new version. Finally it will need to be ratified by each Member State, according to their constitutional requirements. Domenec Ruiz Devesa, the MEP (Socialists & Democrats group) responsible for this file explains the details of the reform in this interview. The biggest concern is that there will not be enough time for the reform to be applicable to the 2024 elections.
What if 16 year-olds could also vote? As of today, Belgium became the fourth EU country, after Austria, Germany and Malta, to give under 18s the right to vote, which includes the 2024 EU elections. This will give them the opportunity to have a say on decisions that concern them directly and that have a significant impact on their future.
Migration and Asylum: Frontex under (fake) scrutiny
The European Parliament has set up a Working Group of MEPs that, since 2021, is scrutinising and monitoring the work and functioning of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. This comes as a response to reports published by media and NGOs that denounce Frontex’s violation of migrants’ fundamental and human rights. A first report by this Working Group was published in July 2021, which found “deficiencies in Frontex’s mechanisms to monitor, report and assess fundamental rights situations and developments”. However, the Working Group could not “find conclusive evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks and/or collective expulsions by Frontex”.
Flash forward to 2023, the Working Group on Frontex Scrutiny recently met to discuss a new, ongoing evaluation by the European Commission of Frontex and of the Border Guards of the Member States. Starting with the fact that many Member States did not collaborate in providing data, the picture described by the Commission is rather detached from what is really happening today at EU borders. It said that Frontex’s fundamental rights framework “seems to be very comprehensive” even though “there are some issues with implementation” that need to be tackled. Moreover, since the new Frontex regulation is “only” four years old, “this evaluation will not allow to have a final picture”.
In other words, even if data will clearly show violation of human rights (which will not happen, apparently), it will still be not relevant enough, since it’s “too early” to tell. A perfect solution ideated by EU institutions for ignoring responsibility, maintaining the status quo and even denying reality, even when illegal actions by Frontex are happening at this very moment.
Meeting between MEPs from the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee and representatives of Border police and Frontex in Athens, March 2023, © European Union, 2023.
Moreover, in the preparatory phase of this evaluation report, the Commission opened a call for evidence to allow civil society to participate in the evaluation. However, the feedback period lasted less than one month and, as some NGOs reported, it looked like this was done to openly discourage the submissions of feedback.
Youth & Arts
EU Ministries reunited in the Council on Education, Youth, Culture and Sport with many items on the agenda. First of all was the inclusion of young people in EU society, with a focus on young Ukrainian citizens. Then, the adoption of a resolution to ensure that the outcomes of the EU Youth Dialogue, a mechanism that allows young people to dialogue with policy makers, are recognised and followed-up by Member States’ governments when they design and implement youth policies at national level.
Ministers of Education reunited in the Council on Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, 16 May 2023, © European Union, 2023.
Another topic of discussion was the involvement of young people in political processes, with the need to “go beyond the boundaries of Brussels”, as well as the promotion of opportunities for youth workers to develop skills to address issues of social inclusion.
One final point was the protection of at-risk and displaced artists around the EU: Ministers adopted conclusions that invite all EU Member States to offer ”safe havens” and “cities of refuge” to artists displaced because of the Russian’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Despite the Council having agreed on remarkable decisions to put in place safeguarding, integrating measures for young people and artists, it demonstrates once again the existence and promotion of discriminatory standards of treatment between Ukrainian refugees and displaced/at risk third country nationals.
Social rights & Skills
On 9 May, the European Year of Skills was officially launched, and a debate between EU institutions was held at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg. Once again, the function of this thematic year has been framed as an “opportunity” not to be missed: to share best practices between Member States, raise awareness on the importance of skills, match people’s skills with the demands of the labour market (as also stressed by Ministries of Employment in an informal Council meeting in Sweden).
EU Member States’ Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs met in Stockholm, 3-4 May 2023, © European Union, 2023.
Even though MEPs from different political groups emphasized the importance of focusing on underrepresented groups in the labour market, including NEETs (young people Not in Education, Employment or Training) and people with fewer opportunities, still no mention was made to which resources have been allocated to make this initiative concretely impactful. It looks like this Year will be used mostly as a “tag” to be applied to ongoing initiatives, activities or events. Instead of focusing on the job markets’ needs, attention should be put on the quality of employment conditions offered to workers, as “nearly one-third of workers had ‘strained’ jobs in 2022, in the sense that the negative aspects of their working conditions outweighed the positive aspects” (Eurofound, 2023).