Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

As millions of Europeans are set to vote, how will the EU elections impact Australia?

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun8,2024
  • Voting in the European elections is not compulsory.
  • Negotiations over fair trade between Australia and the EU have been stalled since 2023.
  • EU Ambassador to Australia Gabriele Visentin said voting will have global implications.
The story was jointly produced by SBS News Radio, SBS Greek and SBS French.
Voting in the European elections is open to European Union (EU) citizens around the world, including Australia, however, each of the 27 voting member countries dictates the date, or dates, that eligible and when the ballot will take place within the period.
Each European country stipulates whether voting is open for citizens living abroad, whether postal voting is permissible, or whether ballots must be cast in person

EU citizens living in Australia are urged to contact their embassy or consulate for information about their country’s protocols.

Belgium Europe Elections

People walk outside the European Parliament prior to a debate with the lead candidates for the European Parliament elections in Brussels, Thursday, May 23, 2024. European elections will take place from June 6-9, 2024. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert) Source: AP / Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

Why these elections are significant

The winning 720 politicians will have an important role in running the European Union (EU), working on laws ranging from emissions targets to bank rules.
EU Ambassador to Australia Gabriele Visentin explained how the vote would have global implications, and how votes from Australia may impact.
“It’ll be a key election, and I am not saying for whom they have to vote, but they have to vote because there are parties or political fractions that are at the same time, anti-EU, a little bit pro-Russia. This is something that might have a big impact as well for Australia and the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

“The geopolitical tensions are everywhere, and there are clear links between what can happen in Europe and what can happen in this region. So securing your vote for the European Parliament will have effects on Australia and its region as well.”

The elections are held every five years and are the world’s only multinational election.
They are second to India – which has more than 900 million eligible voters – in terms of democratic election size.
It is especially significant this year for Greek citizens living in Australia, as a postal vote is being offered for the first time.
Despite there being over 92,000 people born in Greece living in Australia, only 835 have registered to vote in the Oceania region.
Greece’s government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis defended the registration number, saying the current administration had allowed expatriates in more than 80 countries who couldn’t vote under the previous government to vote in this election. 
He pointed to the challenges of tackling abstention since the elections were first held in Greece, until today.
“We have an additional risk that we will face in the upcoming European elections that they are the first European elections since 2009, which in our country take place without local elections being held at the same time,” Marinakis told SBS Greek.

“In 2014 and 2019 we also had local elections [and this is] one more reason to mobilise. But let’s take things from the beginning. Let me remind you that this government was the first in the past four years to raise the issue of the vote of the Greek expatriates.”

European Parliament election 2024 in Finland

People cast their votes on the first day of the advance voting of the European Parliament election in Espoo, Finland, on May 29, 2024. (Photo by HEIKKI SAUKKOMAA/LEHTIKUVA/Sipa USA) Source: SIPA USA / STT-Lehtikuva/STT-Lehtikuva/Sipa USA

The first crucial job of the newly elected parliament will be to approve or reject the 27 people who will run the EU for the next five years.

That will mean approving the president of the European Commission, currently Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, who is seeking a second term.
Far-right parties are becoming increasingly popular in much of Europe, winning elections in Italy and the Netherlands, and leading the polls in France, Austria and Belgium. 
It is expected there will be a political shift to the right, meaning the next five years could see a movement away from the EU’s environmental priorities toward more support for manufacturing, security and agriculture.
However, the director of the EU Centre of Excellence at RMIT University, Professor Bruce Wilson believes it will not have a significant effect on policy. 

Certainly all the indications are that the vote for parties on the right will increase

The director of the EU Centre of Excellence at RMIT University, Bruce Wilson.

“Will it increase to the point where it has a significant impact on European politics? I don’t think so,” Prof Wilson told SBS French.
“We expect that the control of the European Parliament and hence of the European project will firmly remain in the hands of the centre-right and the centre-left as it has throughout the whole life of the EU until now. As they do at the present time, they will probably rely on a third source of support.

“It is at the present time the liberals, it will probably still be the liberals but at a reduced level than they have at the present time.”

How might Australia be affected by the results?

Australia and the EU work together on a wide range of global issues, including climate and energy, human rights, gender equality and cyber issues.
The EU is a significant provider of development assistance to the Pacific and South East Asia.
In 2022, the 27 members of the EU bloc constituted Australia’s third-largest trading partner and second-largest source of foreign investment stock.
But negotiations over fair trade between the two have been stalled since 2023.
Prof Wilson believes the Australian government expects those trade negotiations to resume, but not until after the 2025 federal election.

“From an EU perspective, they were very disappointed at the way in which Australia ended the negotiations last year. They felt that it was based on a misunderstanding would be the polite way to put it, and the negotiators themselves felt that they were very close to an agreement,” he said.

Advance voting in 2024 European elections begins in Sweden

Voters cast their ballots on the first day of early voting in the EU elections at the Central Station in Stockholm, Sweden, 22 May 2024. EPA/FREDRIK SANDBERG SWEDEN OUT Credit: Fredrik Sandberg/EPA

“The response of the Australian government suggests that there are some domestic issues that are still at play that are in the way from the point of the EU.

“Their negotiators would return to the table tomorrow with some confidence that a deal is very close. So the ball is really in the hands of the Australian government and possibly after the June elections. Something could happen before the end of the year.” 
Overall, EU representatives in Australia, like Ambassador Visentin, said although it’s not mandatory to vote, it’s more important than ever this year to do so.
“I think voting is not just a right, it is a duty. Here in Australia, [voting] is formalised as a duty. You’re obliged to vote. It’s compulsory voting,” he said.

“In Europe, it’s obligatory only in a couple of countries, but I think that it’s a moral duty for the citizens to vote.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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