10 Jun 2024, 13:44
Sören Amelang Julian Wettengel

2024 EU elections: Reactions from Germany

Photo shows European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen giving a speech on election night at the 2024 EU elections. Photo: European Union.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on election night. Photo: European Union.

German businesses, researchers and civil society have welcomed that democratic and pro-EU parties continue to have a large majority after the 2024 EU elections, but warned that wins for the populist and far-right camp means that it would become more difficult to introduce ambitious climate and energy transition policy going forward. While industry association BDI said competitiveness of European companies had to be put in the focus, researchers emphasised that the Green Deal could help ensure just that. Media commentators analysed the reasons for the Greens' decline, and the election's impact on domestic politics.

Researchers and analysts

European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

The weak showing of the three partners of Germany's government coalition (SPD, Greens, FDP) means that the frictions in the alliance will intensify further, "especially in view of the current budget negotiations," said Jana Puglierin, head of the Berlin branch of think tank ECFR. She also warned that if the AfD election outcome is any indicator for the autumn elections in three eastern German states, "the AfD threatens to become the strongest force there."

The shift to the right in the European Parliament, meanwhile, could have a particular impact on the areas of climate, migration, enlargement, budget and rule of law, Puglierin said. "Legislation on climate and environmental protection, such as the recent Nature Restoration Law, could only just be pushed through. This will become even more difficult in the future."

Felix Schenuit, Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)

The new political majorities in the European Parliament have become narrower, with implications for the future of climate policy, said Felix Schenuit, researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). "In theory, there is still a solid majority in the European Parliament to pass climate policy." However, this “Green Deal” majority required the members of the political groups to vote coherently – a prerequisite that was not always met in the last legislative period, especially in the case of the largest and most important group, the EPP. "Majorities will be particularly contested on legislation relating to the agricultural sector," said Schenuit. The researcher emphasised that there would not be a rollback of agreed climate policy for the years until 2030. "Instead, the discussion on the content of the next phase of climate policy (2031-2040) will be of central importance." Still, "individual symbolic decisions" – such as the ban on internal combustion engines or the renaturation law – could become part of the negotiating package to find a majority for a new European Commission.

German Institute for Economic Research DIW

Right-wing parties in the European Parliament "will probably have more opportunities to slow down or delay climate legislation” in the future, said Claudia Kemfert, energy analyst at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). But the Green Deal must prevail as climate action is key for the EU's economic future.. Massive investments in China and the US mean that the European Union had to do more to strengthen sectors of the future, she said, adding that "the parties should not make the mistake of interpreting the election result as a vote against the Green Deal”.

Agora Energiewende

The election results underline the importance of topics such as affordable energy, security, safe jobs and competitiveness, said Matthias Buck, director Europe of think tank Agora Energiewende. The EU had to continue investments into domestic clean energy sources and devise a robust European industrial strategy. "The past five years have firmly established the Green Deal as the EU’s growth strategy on its path to climate neutrality," Buck said. "The main task for the next five years is to make sure that citizens and businesses fully benefit from the transition."

Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)

The rise of populist parties is a challenge for the necessary integration steps to strengthen the European Union in the current geopolitical environment, said Moritz Schularick, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel). "Europe's economic and military security and the further development of the internal market should be at the heart of the new Commission's work," he said, adding that the strong showing of populists and Eurosceptic parties made this more difficult. "Research by the Kiel Institute shows that populism is extremely expensive economically and has a negative impact on economic growth. These are costs that we cannot afford."


Government and politicians

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, Green Party

Green Party politician Katrin Göring-Eckardt, who is also a vice president of the national parliament (Bundestag), told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that her party had failed to make clear how the green transition could be done in a socially just manner. "We have not succeeded in making it clear that we are not forgetting the people of the city and the countryside, and making clear that it is not just those who have a lot of money who can afford it." Climate change is happening, and the democratic parties had to jointly decide the right path to deal with it.


Business and industry

Industry association BDI

Industry association BDI welcomed that pro-EU parties remained the clear majority after the elections. Europe needs a "growth plan", said BDI managing director Tanja Gönner. "Europe's industrial competitiveness must be a top priority in the coming legislative period," she said, adding that the new parliament would have to strike "a better balance between ecology and the competitiveness of European companies”.

Energy industry association BDEW

The pro-European groups in the new European Parliament now have to come together in a stable majority to push forward joint European projects, said Kerstin Andreae, head of energy industry association BDEW. "The next legislative period will be about maintaining and strengthening the EU's industrial competitiveness," she said, adding that industry decarbonisation must not be at the expense of competitiveness. The basis for all this is a reliable and affordable energy supply, Andreae said. "We must not forget that we have overcome the gas crisis of the last few years primarily thanks to great European solidarity and the well-functioning European internal energy market. Now we need to further strengthen and expand it," she said. The European Green Deal serves to reduce the EU's energy dependency, in addition to achieving climate targets. Andreae called for "more pragmatism" by policymakers. "We need less micromanagement, bureaucracy and a jungle of subsidies. This also includes not introducing any further tightening of targets and ensuring planning security for companies."

Renewables industry association BEE

Democratic groups had come out on top in the elections and must continue the push for climate action and renewable energies, said Simone Peter, head of the renewables industry association BEE. "It is more important than ever that all pro-European parties come together to secure Europe as a sustainable economic and industrial location," she said. This had to be done to help "push back populists and extremists” by "convincing people of the value of Europe for our future”.


Civil society

Environmental NGO umbrella organisation DNR

Kai Niebert, director of environmental NGO umbrella association DNR, called on EPP lead candidate Ursula von der Leyen to refrain from cooperation with far-right groups, and further develop the Green Deal. "It is now up to her to forge a pact for the future of Europe that the democratic parties can rally behind," said Niebert. "We call on all pro-EU and democratic MEPs to unite and fight together for the EU and its achievements such as the Green Deal."

Luisa Neubauer, climate activist Fridays for Future

Climate activist Luisa Neubauer (Fridays for Future) said that the climate crisis remains the most existential threat in the wake of the EU elections. "Climate protection is a global obligation and a human right – all parties must honour the climate targets," she said. "The new European Parliament must obviously rise above itself to fulfil this requirement."


Pre-election surveys had shown that a majority of voters wanted more ambitious climate action with an emphasis on a socially just transition, said Oldag Caspar, head of German and European climate policy at Germanwatch. "The election result is a mandate to Parliament and the Commission to further develop the European Green Deal in a socially just way," he said. "Europe now needs a social climate policy."



Nikolaus Doll in conservative daily Die Welt

“The [conservative] union parties just reached their minimum target with around 30 per cent,” writes Nikolaus Doll in conservative daily Die Welt, adding that the EU elections were ultimately also a vote on opposition leader Friedrich Merz himself. “Merz must be prepared for the chancellorship question to be back on the agenda after this election […] It is probably no coincidence that North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Hendrik Wüst (CDU) spoke out on election day to declare that he would not rule out a bid for the Union's candidacy for chancellor.”

Sigmund Thomas in business daily Handelsblatt

“The result is clear. CDU leader Friedrich Merz won by a landslide against SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Apart from that, the European elections did not deliver any other surprising results. The series of defeats suffered by the ‘traffic light’ [government coalition parties] did not end. The SPD and FDP continue to be perennial losers. However, there is one exception. The Greens' chancellorship dreams are probably over for good.”

Eric Bonse and Tobias Schulze in left-wing daily Tageszeitung

“After corona, war, and inflation, enthusiasm for climate protection has collapsed among voters. [The Greens] have still not recovered from their own mistakes regarding the heating law - often perceived as too radical - in terms of approval ratings. On the other hand, former core voters may have turned away precisely because of the many compromises made in climate policy and other areas. And the general dissatisfaction with the traffic light [government coalition] parties hovers over everything.”

Nikolas Busse in conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“It has been said again and again that the main challenge for the CDU is that it must not lose the political centre, and this was always understood to mean the centre-left, i.e. a green or red-coloured middle class. Today, however, the centre has shifted to the right. [CDU leader Friedrich] Merz has been rewarded for recognising this. With this result behind him, he can go into the three state elections in the east a little more relaxed, and he has also come a step closer to running for chancellor.”

Anne Gellinek, public broadcaster ZDF

“[The results] mean that the green zeitgeist that characterised the last European elections has now evaporated. Many, especially young Europeans, preferred to vote for populists with supposedly simple solutions. It's just a shame that climate change cannot be voted out. Things will therefore become much more complicated in Europe, and not just in terms of climate and agricultural policy. After tonight's election, the German ‘traffic light’ government is so weakened that it will not be of much help in the EU.”

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