All you need to know about the EU elections

Between 6 and 9 June EU citizens will go to the polls to elect the European Parliament, the only parliament directly elected by people from multiple countries. More than 370 million people will be eligible to vote, including millions of EU citizens living in the UK. 

Who can participate and how will the vote impact people’s lives? Here is what you need to know. 

Who can vote?

In principle, all adult EU citizens from the 27 EU countries can participate in the election of the European Parliament. In practice, it depends on where you live and where you are from, as electoral rules are set by each EU member state in national law. One of the common principles national laws have to follow is proportional representation. 

To find out how to vote in each country, click here

The minimum age to vote varies between 16 in Belgium, Germany, Malta and Austria, 17 in Greece, and 18 in all other EU countries. In Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece and Luxembourg voting is compulsory.

The highest number of voters is in Germany (64.9 million), France (49.7 million) and Italy (47 million). The lowest is in Malta (0.4 million), Luxembourg (0.5 million) and Cyprus (0.7 million). Some 21 million people will be voting for the first time this year.

Can EU citizens abroad vote?

EU citizens who live in another EU member state have the right to vote in their place of residence. But they have to choose whether to vote for a candidate in the host country or in the home country, as it is illegal to vote twice. 

EU citizens who live outside the EU, including the UK, in principle retain the right to vote. But again, rules differ. 

Ireland does not allow its citizens resident abroad to vote at all. Bulgaria and Italy allow their citizens to vote abroad only if they live in another EU member state. 

Each country also has separate arrangements for citizens who are temporarily abroad. 

Information on how to vote can be found on the websites of the respective Embassies and consulates.

How to vote?

People can vote in person at embassies or consulates in 19 countries. In 14 countries they can vote by post. Three countries – Belgium, France and the Netherlands – allow proxy voting, and Estonia allows electronic voting. 

Italy, Czechia, Malta and Slovakia require citizens in the UK – and elsewhere outside of the EU – to return to the respective country to cast their ballot. 

How many members of parliament will be elected?

A total of 720 members will be elected to the European Parliament for a 5-year mandate. The number of members will increase by 15 because of adjustments due to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and to population changes. 

This is the number of MEPs elected by country:

  • Germany 96
  • France 81 (+2)
  • Italy 76
  • Spain 61 (+2)
  • Poland 53 (+1)
  • Romania 33
  • Netherlands 31 (+2)
  • Belgium 22 (+1)
  • Greece, Czechia, Sweden, Portugal, Hungary 21
  • Austria 20 (+1)
  • Bulgaria 17
  • Denmark, Finland, Slovakia 15 (+1 each)
  • Ireland 14 (+1)
  • Croatia 12
  • Lithuania 11
  • Slovenia and Latvia 9 (+1 each)
  • Estonia 7
  • Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta 6

In 2019, 60% of elected members had not sat in the European Parliament before and 40% were re-elected. Most MEPs were between 40 and 60 years old and about 40% were women. 

What does the European Parliament do?

Like all parliaments, the European Parliament passes laws. In this case, it is laws that apply across all EU member states and that are agreed with national governments, represented in the EU Council. 

Examples of laws passed by the European Parliament include rules on the free movement of people within the EU, on refunds for flight delays and cancellations when travelling within EU countries, on the labelling of food, on air pollution, or on the energy efficiency of buildings. 

The major difference with national parliaments is that the EU Parliament cannot initiate new laws, a task that sits within the European Commission. 

It is possible to petition the European Parliament, which can recommend a follow-up to the European Commission.

The European Parliament also approves the EU budget, including the budget for the Erasmus programme and for scientific programmes, as well as trade agreements with non-EU countries. 

Over the Brexit negotiations, the European Parliament has kept an oversight on citizens’ rights and in 2025 it will be involved in the revision of the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement.

Beyond legislation, the European Parliament elections will determine the set-up of the EU institutions. Based on the result of the vote, the European Council (formed by leaders of EU countries) will nominate the new Commission president, who will have to receive the Parliament’s confidence. 

Which parties are represented in the European Parliament?

National parties join European groups of a similar ideology. There are currently seven political groups, with the European People’s Party (EPP), the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the liberals of Renew Europe making up a centrist majority. 

All EU-wide manifestos proposed by European political parties are available at The Good Lobby website.

According to opinion polls, this election will see a rise of right-wing parties, but it is not clear yet whether this will change the current majority. 

Since when is the European Parliament elected? 

The European Parliament was first elected in 1979, when the EU was made of nine countries. Before then, its members were appointed by national parliaments. 

Will people participate in this election? 

Historically, fewer people participate in the European elections than in national elections. Participation is especially low among EU citizens who live abroad, due to practical difficulties and lack of information

After a period of decline, turnout increased again in 2019, when 50.6% of eligible people participated – the first contest since 1994 in which more than half of the adult EU population voted. 

More people than in 2019 said they plan to vote this year, according to a recent survey

The European Parliament has just launched a video campaign urging people to vote. The documentary “Use your vote” features senior citizens from different EU countries telling their stories about events that have shaped European democracy and passing the responsibility to uphold it to the next generations.

EU Ambassadors in the UK also urge EU citizens in the country to participate in the elections.

When will we know the results?

The results of the elections will be known when the ballot papers are counted in all EU countries. The first projections of the new Parliament will be announced at 11.00pm CET on Sunday 9 June, after the conclusion of the vote in Italy, the last EU country to close the polls. 

Claudia Delpero © Europe Street News

This article is published in cooperation with French Morning LondonEl IbéricoLondra ItaliaLondynek and Ziarul Românesc as part of a public information project about the European elections funded by the European Parliament office in London.

Photo by Antoine Schibler on Unsplash

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