Trends 2024: European Union

The 2024 elections are intended to reset the EU institutions and establish a new long-term agenda for the Union for the next five years.

Subscribe for Newsletter

The 2024 elections are intended to reset the EU institutions and establish a new long-term agenda for the Union for the next five years.






The European Union, as an international organisation, is entering another electoral cycle. The 2024 elections are intended to reset the EU institutions and establish a new long-term agenda for the Union for the next five years. The full-scale war of Russia against Ukraine has sharpened the question: how geopolitically powerful and independent is the Union in shaping its position on the international stage? The review of relations with Russia, China, and other authoritarian states around the world tests how independent and resilient the EU’s economic and social systems can be under the influence of a series of crises.

Among the internal trends that will impact the European Union in the short and medium term, the following should be noted:

  • The outcome of European elections and the possibility of maintaining a pro-European coalition in the next European Parliament. Current sociological surveys in EU member states indicate a rise in support for far-right and populist political forces, who can receive more seats in the European Parliament for the 2024-2029 term. Such a development is threatening, considering the fact that the political influence of the legislative body is constantly increasing, and in many cases, the European Parliament acts as a co-legislator of European directives and regulations.
  • The activation of EU enlargement policy. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in 2022 has provided a new geopolitical impetus to restart the enlargement policy by adding the countries of Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus to the list of candidate states alongside the Western Balkan states. The political decision to initiate negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, adopted during the European Council meeting, marks a significant development.
  • Strengthening cooperation in the defence and security sphere within the EU. The Russian-Ukrainian war highlighted a very low level of joint initiatives in defence and security within the European Union. Despite a series of thematic instruments introduced between 2017 and 2021, the EU members did not show significant interest in joint defence procurement or substantial collective defence developments. It was only in the second year of the war that the EU managed to launch such programs as the Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP) and European Defence Industry Reinforcement through Common Procurement Act (EDIRPA), aiming to provide incentives for collaborative approaches in the production and procurement of ammunition, as well as addressing other gaps in the defence sectors of the EU member-states. However, along with new opportunities, new obstacles have become evident on the path to a common defence alliance, both at the political and technological levels.
  • The need for a coordinated common migration policy. Despite significant efforts by European institutions, the fight against illegal migration and its consequences have yet to find a resolution in the form of a common EU migration policy. Migration risks are heightened, considering the frequent attempts to use refugees as hybrid weapons by Russia and Belarus. The issue requires comprehensive resolution at the EU level, but member states remain divided depending on their positions on specific aspects such as protecting European borders, refugee relocation within the EU, and common rules for dealing with illegal migrants.
  • Searching for alternatives in energy and addressing climate change. In 2022, the EU countries faced an energy crisis due to dependence on Russia. Member states, supported by European institutions, are still compelled to find both temporary, quick solutions to reduce dependence on the aggressor state and establish long-term stability in energy policy. These steps must align with the principles of the European Green Deal, not disrupt the competitive foundations of the EU energy market, and avoid creating new dependencies on other authoritarian states rich in fossil fuel resources. Currently, national approaches in individual countries create conflicting situations in relations between national governments and the European Commission.
  • Reforming the decision-making process in the EU. Since the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine, the EU’s decision-making in the realm of foreign and security policy has exposed its weaknesses. The EU Council’s unanimity principle and a similar format for decision-making in the European Council made the EU a hostage to individual members who deliberately manipulate the decision-making process for their domestic political gain or, worst case, in favour of a third party. Member states are divided into camps of supporters and opponents of changing the voting rules in EU institutions. Success in overcoming these shortcomings will be decisive for the effectiveness of the Union on the international stage.

Among the external trends that will determine the international status, legitimacy, and effectiveness of the EU toolkit, the following can be highlighted:

  • Maintaining transatlantic unity with the United States in confronting authoritarian and aggressive regimes that disrupt the international world order. Relying on transatlantic solidarity, the EU aims to form a resilient, democratic coalition to address key issues on the international agenda. A joint Brussels-Washington position regarding aggressors or authoritarian states that challenge the EU’s core values serves as a cornerstone for long-term political and economic deterrence.
  • The dynamics of support for Ukraine on political-diplomatic, military, financial, and humanitarian levels. The European Union remains one of Ukraine’s largest partners in aggregate indicators of financial and military support. However, depending on internal political factors and the battlefield dynamics, the EU’s capacity may decrease. Such a decline would signify a reduction in the geopolitical agency of the EU and a loss of legitimacy in shaping the international agenda.
  • The balance between values and interests in cooperation with authoritarian regimes. The full-scale war brought to the forefront the issue of the EU’s strategic autonomy, manifested in reducing dependence on third parties in strategic areas such as energy, high technologies, critical natural resources, etc. Given that achieving full autonomy in these areas is impossible, the main challenge for the EU, as well as EU member states, will be determining the level of acceptability of cooperation with authoritarian states in diversification efforts and risk reduction. Expectations include divergences in positions among individual EU members in forming approaches to relations with Russia, China, and authoritarian regimes in the Global South.
  • EU-NATO Relations. Nearly every conclusion from the European Council meetings includes references to the strategic autonomy of the EU, as well as the importance of cooperation between the EU and NATO. In March 2022, EU leaders endorsed the Strategic Compass as the long-term strategy for the European Union in the field of security and defence. The document outlines a series of steps the EU should implement in the medium term to enhance its resilience to security and defence challenges. The political will of the EU members in implementing the Strategic Compass, as well as the establishment of synergistic mechanisms with NATO, will have a decisive impact on strengthening the EU’s role in collective defence matters and transitioning towards the concept of the EU Defence Union.





In 2024, the EU may successfully adopt a series of significant political decisions proposed at the beginning of the European Commission’s term under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen. In the external dimension, these cases include migration policy and the continuation of support for Ukraine. On the domestic front, leading up to the June 2024 elections, the EU Council and the European Parliament will likely bring legislative processes related to the regulation of natural resources and industrial production to a logical conclusion, with specific decisions within the framework of the European Green Deal.

The European elections will not bring significant surprises; in the European Parliament, political forces will form a pro-European coalition, allowing for the planning of an ambitious agenda for the next 5-year term. Ursula von der Leyen is likely to be re-elected as the President of the European Commission.

Despite significant political differences among EU members, Ukraine and Moldova will initiate the technical process of negotiations for accession to the European Union next year. Simultaneously, the Strategic Agenda will task to align decision-making processes with the realities of expansion. While the accession horizon for new EU members extends beyond the 5-year term of European institutions, the enlargement policy will remain an active and effective tool for communication with partners and a stimulus for implementing reforms.

A new strategy for defence industry development, built on the lessons learned from Russia’s war against Ukraine, as well as an understanding of the deficit in defence capabilities, will help strengthen the protection of EU members in the medium term. Additionally, it will contribute to developing a corresponding institutional mechanism capable of enhancing NATO and, if necessary, ensuring autonomous defence and security operations for the EU.

Regardless of the results of presidential elections, relations with the United States will maintain a strategic character. Cooperation with Washington will occur through various formats, including the Group of Seven, NATO, temporary coalitions (such as the Ramstein group), etc.

The European Union, while maintaining its position on cooperation with China, will seek to minimise dependence on Beijing in critical spheres.


While the pro-European majority will remain in the European Parliament, the number of seats for far-right and populist forces will significantly increase. This may continue the trend of problematic decision-making during the term of the new parliament and amplify the influence of anti-European forces in the EU.

Despite political support for the enlargement process, the official opening of negotiations with candidate countries and the formation of further steps to initiate negotiations will experience delays due to the stance of some EU member states.

Support for Ukraine will remain a priority for the European Union. However, the imperfect decision-making process at the level of the European institutions may lead to attempts to block and delay decisions. This could complicate the planning of assistance to Ukraine and create temporary crises. The EU’s ability to influence member states openly adhering to anti-European policies will remain significantly limited. Substantial internal differentiation among EU members regarding the rule of law will persist. The issue of compliance with common European rules by the EU capitals will also be on the agenda of European institutions more frequently.

In the defence sector, the EU member states will remain highly dependent on military assistance from the United States and South Korea. This dependence will reduce the potential for joint defence initiatives, which are currently actively implemented under the auspices of the European Defence Agency.

The construction of elements of resilience for EU member states in the economic and energy sectors will rely on national approaches. These approaches will define their own formulas for resource exploration, limitations on dependencies, and diversification of sources for critical resources. In this context, protectionism will persist, accompanied by frequent misunderstandings regarding adherence to EU rules.



The worsening socio-economic situation in EU countries may lead to an increase in negative sentiments among the population of EU member states, which, in turn, can significantly influence voting behaviour. Mobilisation of protest voting poses the risk of questioning the formation of a stable pro-European coalition in the future parliament. Such a development could have a destructive impact on the subsequent legislative process, which will depend on the search for situational coalitions in the European Parliament.

The EU enlargement process risks getting stuck again due to the increase in populist and nationally oriented political forces in parliamentary and government coalitions in member states. 

The lack of significant battlefield success in the Russian-Ukrainian war will also increase the number of critical voices from European capitals regarding further support for Ukraine. Some tracks of support may shift from the European level to the level of bilateral projects between Kyiv and individual EU member states. At the same time, the number of voices supporting Viktor Orban’s current approach, emphasising the need for a ceasefire and refraining from supplying military aid to Ukraine, may increase.

Divergent views on security threats among EU members will prevent the formation of a self-sufficient defence industry and the establishment of the so-called European Defence Union, which would possess sufficient independent military capabilities for defending the EU territory and assisting partners.

There will remain a noticeable division among EU member countries on the issues of reforming decision-making in the EU. Abandoning the requirement for unanimous voting in matters of common foreign and security policy will not gather a critical mass of support.

There will be an increasing number of contentious issues and tensions between Brussels and Washington regarding competition in external markets, the protection of business interests, and the regulation of critical technologies. Donald Trump’s potential return to power in the US may only intensify the polarisation.


The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung or of the organization for which the author works.