10 issues to watch at the European Parliament 2024

By Sonja Rijnen

The European Parliament Research Service (EPRS) kicks off every year by releasing their top ten issues and policy areas which they think will likely feature heavily in public debate and on the political agenda of the EU in the coming year. 

This year marks the 8th edition of this paper and more than ever choosing the top ten issues will have been an immensely difficult task for the team. 

According to the report, Europe is likely to be greatly impacted by internal issues, such as the upcoming European Parliament elections, but also external developments.

Half of the global population heads to the polls this year, wars are raging in various regions and of course, the climate crisis continues to unfold. 

At the end of January, the EPRS held a ‘policy roundtable’ to present their findings. Each of the 10 sections was authored by a researcher specialising in a policy field. 

Overall, the paper strikes a nice balance between “obvious” issues such as the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and EU/US elections, and developments which may not be at the forefront of readers’ minds such as the EU’s automotive industry and food insecurity. 

However, during the presentation, the EPRS did caveat the paper by stating that of course some issues could be considered as “missing” from the paper, such as the ongoing situation in the Middle East. 

EU and global elections

The 10 issues can be broadly divided into overarching topics. The first is elections, with the first of the 10 issues being the fact that “young Europeans are going to the polls”. The paper opens by explaining that in 2019, turnout in the EP elections reached above 50 percent, largely due to youth participation. 

A key reason why this issue made it to the top 10 is that there will be an additional two million young voters this year as some member states will allow 16-year-olds to vote for the first time (notably, Germany and Belgium). Youth participation will therefore play a large role in shaping Europe in 2024. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the outcome of the upcoming US elections features heavily. Issue 9 argues that this will be a watershed moment as the outcomes of the election will have a big impact on Europe. 

The EPRS’ analysts explain that while a second Biden term would likely entail foreign policy continuity, a Trump victory would shift the US’ approach towards its allies, which would greatly affect Europe. 

The topic of elections and how to counter fake news and disinformation was also included in the European Parliament’s list. The author argues that although disinformation has already been a concern in the past, this massive electoral year means that more people than ever could be impacted by the rise in AI, which is advancing at “startling speeds”. 

The fact that reliably detecting AI content is very difficult means that it will become more difficult for citizens to ensure content is accurate and reliable. 

The Climate Crisis

Climate issues also featured considerably in the report. The EPRS argues that in 2024, climate adaptation will become much more important and will be key to reducing climate-related loss and damage. It is becoming less likely that agreed targets to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius will be met, with the world expected to overshoot the target before 2030. 

The world will have to implement measures to adapt to changing climates rather than just mitigating them in 2024. On the topic of climate, the EPRS also chose El Niño’s knock-on effect on food insecurity as an issue to watch. 

In July 2023, the World Meteorological Organization announced the “onset” of El Niño which will probably affect rain patterns around the world, in turn having a profound effect on food production.  Both scarce and excessive rainfall can often lead to agricultural failures. 

Changing ocean temperatures brought on by El Niño may also affect fisheries. A main concern is that below-average rainfall is expected in southeast Asia, regions responsible for 58 percent of the world’s rice production. In Europe, food may become even more expensive and, as one of the largest donors in the world, the EU may have to support struggling countries and regions with food assistance. 

Support for Ukraine 

Two of the top 10 issues also focused on Ukraine. The first relates to the “financing of Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction”. The EU’s financing mechanism (the so-called ‘Ukraine Facility’) will provide funds to Ukraine from 2024, while negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU will open this year as well. 

The paper argues that 2024 will be a key year to ensure Ukraine is supported in winning the war and also becoming a fully democratic state based on the rule of law, which could “act as a beacon of freedom and prosperity”. 

The EPRS also highlighted that in 2024 it is time to think about providing justice for the victims of Russia’s war against Ukraine. There are various ongoing litigations in international criminal courts and investigations which are likely to play out in 2024. These include legal proceedings in the ICC, the ICJ and the European Court of Human Rights. 

EU industry

Europe is known for producing high-quality, top-of-the-range vehicles. However, the sector has a “long tradition of producing vehicles with internal combustion engines”, which are being phased out in favour of electric vehicles. 

The EU also lags behind other regions in the world when it comes to chip and software production, which is important because cars are increasingly becoming ‘computers on wheels’. For these reasons, “the future of the automotive sector” was chosen as a top 10 issue. Considering the sector employs almost 13 million Europeans and accounts for 8 percent of the EU’s GDP, changing trends in car manufacturing will have a big impact on our region in 2024. 

On a similar note, the EPRS also highlights the importance of “accelerating delivery on the twin transition”, a key objective of Next Generation EU (NGEU) and its Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). NGEU was created to help member states navigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, and most of the funds are distributed through the RRF, which has quotas on how much must be spent on climate and digital-related measures. In 2024, hundreds of reforms and milestones are expected to be met and this year will be extremely important for both the delivery and scrutiny of the programmes for transition. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top