A guide to the 2024 European Parliament Elections

European Parliament elections, PBLA
A guide to the 2024 European Parliament Elections

This pre-election review of the European elections was commissioned by the PBLA and the ALA and written by journalist Pauls Raudseps.

Every five years, elections are held in the early summer in all 27 EU countries, where European citizens decide who will represent them in the European Parliament.

The elections in Latvia will take place on Saturday, June 8. In June, Latvia will send representatives to one of the EU’s three main decision-making bodies for the fifth time since joining the European Union (EU).

In this review, we will brief voters on the role of the European Parliament (EP), the key political issues in these elections, and the sixteen lists competing for Latvia’s nine seats.

How does the European Parliament work?

As a community of sovereign states, the EU has a different institutional set-up from the classical model to which we are accustomed. In Latvia and other parliamentary countries, there tends to be a single legislature, which both proposes and adopts laws, and where the support of the majority is necessary for the work of the executive. In the EU, the legislative powers are divided between three institutions – the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament – but without the support of a majority of the EP, new laws binding on the whole EU cannot be adopted.

In the legislative sphere, the European Commission, which is like the EU’s executive, is also the only body with the power to propose new laws. But laws need to win the support of both the European Council, where national governments are represented, and the European Parliament, where EU citizens are directly represented – both of which often adjust the European Commission’s initial proposals.

The European Parliament also approves the President of the European Commission, nominated by the European Council, and then the Commission, nominated by the new President and composed of one Commissioner from each Member State. The European Parliament also has the right to dismiss the European Commission. However, unlike in a typical parliamentary country, the EU’s executive branch – the Commission – does not need the support of a stable parliamentary coalition, and votes on specific legislative initiatives can be secured by configurations of different political forces.

Although there are no EU-wide parties in Europe, the majority of elected MEPs are involved in a “political group”, similar to the factions in the Latvian Saeima. There are currently seven political groups in the EP, but the number can vary depending on the capacity and willingness of the national parties represented in the Parliament to work together. If Latvian MEPs make effective use of their participation in political groups and are able to shape the common views of these groups, they can increase their influence on decisions taken by the EP.

There are currently 705 MEPs in the EP, but the Parliament to be elected this year will have more – 720 MEPs – and Latvia’s representation will increase from eight to nine MEPs.

Interesting fact: The EP is the second largest parliament in the world, with only the Indian legislature having more MEPs.

What are the most important issues in the run-up to the elections?

The war. After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, security issues have consistently been at the forefront of Latvian society and politics. This is also clearly reflected in the Eurobarometer survey, where the top priority for Latvian voters is EU defence and security.

Before 2022. Defence issues were not on the EU’s agenda in 2007, but now the EU has become one of Ukraine’s main supporters and EU officials are actively thinking of ways to use EU institutions and finances to strengthen Europe’s defence capabilities.

The environment At a pan-European level, one of the most important issues on the agenda of the next European Parliament will be the future of the current European Commission in 2019. The European Green Deal, which aims to deliver a European Green Deal by 2030. The European Green Deal, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. and to ensure that the EU will be on track to reach its target of 55% of 1990 levels by 2050. This means that the EU will emit no more greenhouse gases than it can remove from the atmosphere.

In recent months, the changes demanded by the Green Deal have sparked farmer protests in several EU countries, and the implementation of the Green Deal will remain one of the most controversial issues in the next EP.

With rare exceptions, Latvian parties say in their programmes that they support the “Green Deal”, but basically believe that its implementation should not become an additional burden for Latvian businesses and consumers. In reality, this probably means relaxing the requirements of the Green Deal. In the following discussion, we will focus on the “Green Deal” only in cases where a party’s programme differs significantly from this general position.

Thestructure of the European Union is complex and many voters do not understand it well. It is therefore not surprising that the official election manifestos of many Latvian parties contain promises on matters that are not even within the competence of the European Parliament. “We will critically evaluate all those promises,” said President Edgars Rinkēvičs in a recent interview. “The European Parliament is not increasing pensions in Latvia [un] the road from one regional centre to another will be paved by the Latvian government or a local authority.” He therefore urged voters to pay attention to the things that Latvia’s MEPs will be able to influence, such as sanctions against Russia, strengthening security and the next EU budget, from which Latvia will receive money to boost economic development.

Find out more about how what the candidates say matches the facts on this fact-checking site: https://rebaltica.lv/2024/03/ko-runa-kandidats/

Briefly about each party and its candidates

There are 16 parties in the running with a total of 271 candidates, and the official programme of each party, which can be up to 10,000 characters long, is also available on the website of the Central Election Commission (CEC). (By comparison, the maximum length of a programme submitted for the parliamentary elections is only 4,000 characters).

It is not possible to analyse in detail both the characteristicss of the candidates and the details of their programmes in the scope of this review, so we are going to highlight only the most significant points.

But let’s focus on one issue in particular.

The agendas of the parties show very different approaches to European defence and assistance to Ukraine. Some parties have set out their plans in great detail, devote a significant part of the programme to proposals to strengthen Europe’s defence capabilities and support for Ukraine, and make it clear that Russia is the aggressor and that Ukraine must win the war. There is no doubt that the representatives of such parties will work resolutely to support Ukraine and strengthen European security, even if their proposals differ in some details from other parties. On the other hand, there are parties whose programmes do not pay any attention to these issues. They avoid calling Russia the aggressor and probably do not see efforts to resist its aggression as a priority. We will therefore take a look at each party’s position on this vital issue.

We will also mention in the overview if the party associates itself with a particular political group in the European Parliament.

The lists are ranked in order of the numbers drawn by the Central Election Commission.

Full details about the candidates and the programmes for each party can be found on the CVK website: https://epv2024.cvk.lv/kandidatu-saraksti

1. Saskaņa(Harmony)Social Democratic Party

First on the party list is Nils Ušakovs, who was elected for the first time to the European Parliament in 2019 after he had been the mayor of Rīga for ten years. Olga Petkeviča, who has been actively organising assistance to Russian citizens threatened with expulsion from Latvia for not knowing the Latvian language, is #2 on the Harmony list. The programme highlights social issues: the EU “is the only guarantor of a minimum level of economic and social well-being and respect for human rights in Latvia.” At the same time, it highlights “the recognition of the Russian-speaking minority’s belonging to Latvia and Europe and respect for their rights”.

War and security: supports the objective of “swiftly and effectively ending Russia’s war against Ukraine”, but no concrete proposals.

Political group: Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the second largest group in the current parliamentary term. S&D also includes the German Social Democrats and other similar parties. Read more here: https://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/

2. JKP Jaunā konservatīvā partija (New Conservative Party)

#1 on the list is former Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits, followed by poet Liāna Langa, who is known as a fighter for “de-globalisation”, and former Welfare Minister Gatis Eglītis, who once worked for the European Commission. The programme bluntly says it is “time to slow down the green tide”, citing as a concrete example the possibility of keeping older, and therefore less environmentally friendly, cars in use. Focuses on the development of transport, including rail infrastructure.

War and security: a few sentences on boosting military industry and curbing Russian aggression in Ukraine.

3. Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!” – “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK” (National Alliance “All Latvia!” – “Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK“)

The leader of the list, Robert Zīle, has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2004. He became Vice-President of the European Parliament as a representative of his political group. The second on the list is former Defence Minister Ināra Mūrniece, and the third – Rihards Kols, Chairman of the Saeima Foreign Affairs Commission. The Agenda places particular emphasis on curbing migration. While Hungarian leader Orbán’s crackdown on the rule of law and his friendship with Putin have drawn the condemnation of many Europeans, the NA “strongly opposes the idea of changing the EU’s basic treaties, which could isolate ‘recalcitrant’ member states from joint decision-making”.

War and security: “Everything possible must be done to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian occupation forces and to help Ukraine become a member of the EU and NATO.” Emphasises NATO as Europe’s main security guarantor, but supports strengthening the EU’s military industry.

Political grouping: the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, which also includes Poland’s Law and Justice(PiS) and Italian Prime Minister Meloni’s Italian Brothers. Read more here: https://www.ecrgroup.eu/

4. Latvija pirmajā vietā (Latvia First)

The leader of the list is Vilis Krištopans, a member of the Saeima and former Prime Minister, followed by Linda Liepiņa, a member of the Saeima, and Ričards Šlesers, a member of the Saeima and son of Ainārs Šlesers. Although such issues are not within the competence of the European Union, the main focus of the programme is on “traditional values” and “families based on a mother and a father”. The party hopes to strengthen Latvia’s security through foreign investment in real estate development projects. The first item in the programme is “Vote for Šlesers’ team!”, and 69 of the 85 sentences in the text end with an exclamation mark.

War and security: neither Ukraine nor Russia is mentioned in the Agenda.

5. Latvijas attīstībai (For Latvia’s Development)

At the top of the list is political scientist Ivars Ijabs, who was elected as an MEP in 2019. The second place goes to Artis Pabriks, who has served as both Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence, and the third place to Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis, who has served as both Minister of Education and Minister of Economy. Calls for a limit on individual Member States’ veto power over EU decisions and for EU money to be linked to the rule of law and democracy in the Member States. They want to limit economic dependence on China and other autocratic countries.

War and security: the Agenda starts by saying that the EU must become a genuine security and defence union and that Ukraine must defeat Russia and join the EU.

Political grouping: the Renew Europe faction, prominently represented by French President Emmanuel Macron and Estonian Prime Minister Kay Kallas. Read more here: https://www.reneweuropegroup.eu/

6.Centra partija (Centre Party)

The top two spots are occupied by Inna Djeri and Miroslav Mitrofanov, who were elected to the Riga City Council from the Latvian Russian Union (LRU), while Normunds Grostiņš, one of Latvia’s most prominent Eurosceptics, is in the third spot. The party promises to continue the work of Tatjana Ždanoka, leader of the LCS, in the European Parliament “to protect the rights of minorities and non-citizens, to fight against the rise of neo-Nazism”. Ždanoka’s cooperation with Russian intelligence services was recently revealed in leaked emails. The Centre Party wants to make Russian one of the EU’s official languages.

War and security: Russia’s attack on Ukraine is blamed on the West, which “made a catastrophic mistake by abandoning the creation of a collective security space in Europe after the end of the Cold War”.

7. Apvienība Jaunlatvieši (Alliance of Young Latvians)

Number one on the list, former diplomat Rudolf Bremanis, is currently on trial for fraud and embezzlement. Number two Gloria Grevcova lost her seat in the Saeima when she was convicted of giving false information to the Central Election Commission. Now Grevtsova is facing war crimes charges over a TikTok recording in which she called what she was told at the Occupation Museum “fictional history”. The list of key tasks includes speaking from the podium of the European Parliament on Latvia’s problems.

War and security: the programme makes no mention of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

8. Joint list – Latvian Green Party, Latvian Association of Regions, Liepāja Party (United List – Latvian Green Party, Latvian Regional Alliance, Liepāja Party

At the top of the list is Reinis Poznaks, who launched the Twitter Convoy to deliver donated cars to the Ukrainian armed forces. The second place goes to the Latgale activist Juris Viļums, the third – to the former Minister of Defence Raimonds Bergmanis. Almost all the items on the agenda relate to strengthening security. The EU needs to achieve strategic autonomy in the production of microchips, change its banking policy in favour of the military industry, and adapt its transport, energy and health infrastructures to ensure that they can function in crisis situations.

War and security: the programme broadly discusses ways to strengthen the EU’s lines of defence against Russia, but does not outline plans to help Ukraine.

9. Progresīvie (Progressives)

At the top of the list is the former head of the European Latvian Association Elīna Pinto, the second is the former Mayor of Riga Mārtiņš Staķis, the third – Justīne Panteļejeva, a member of the Riga City Council. Supports faster implementation of the Green Deal – the EU must “achieve climate neutrality by 2040”. The pro-Kremlin Hungarian government’s actions show the need to reduce the power of Member States to block EU decisions by vetoing them. Advocates marriage equality across the EU. They want to increase the EU budget by introducing and extending EU taxes such as a financial transaction tax or a tax on unrecycled plastic waste.

War and security: ‘The EU must give Ukraine all the political, military and humanitarian support it needs’ “Closer EU integration in the security field is needed.”

Political grouping: the Greens, whose most prominent representatives include German Foreign Minister Annalena Burbock. Read more here: https://www.greens-efa.eu/en/

10. Politiskā partija Tautas varas spēks (Political party Power of People’s Power)

List leader Valentin Yeremeyev was one of the most active protesters against the government’s policies during the pandemic in 2020. The second on the list is Aivars Smans, who was once convicted of passport forgery and is active on social media in spreading messages about the war in Ukraine that are consistent with pro-Kremlin narratives. The programme is based on the claim that Latvia has not benefited from the EU so far. Representing conservative values.

War and security: neither Russia nor Ukraine are mentioned in the programme. “Military threats and economic instability cannot be eliminated by armaments.”

11. Kustība ‘Par!’ (Movement ‘For!’)

Top of the list is Ivanna Volchiy, a Ukrainian-Belgian dual citizen and project manager for the Renew Europe political group in the European Parliament. Linda Curika, an expert in strategic communications and countering disinformation, is second on the list. Third – Inese Voika, who was a member of the Saeima and headed the anti-corruption organisation Delna. Advocates closer EU cooperation on defence, health, education and welfare. Supports achieving climate neutrality by 2050 “In these elections, we need to safeguard a European Parliament that is capable of acting, where pro-European forces can neutralise radicals, populists and Putinists.”

War and security: ‘Ukraine’s victory and accession to the EU and NATO are key to Latvia’s security’ The Programme sets out a range of proposals to achieve this.

Political grouping: the Renew Europe faction, prominently represented by French President Macron and Estonian Prime Minister Kay Kallas. Read more here: https://www.reneweuropegroup.eu/

12. Suverēnā vara (Sovereign Power)

After being elected to the 13th Saeima, list leaders Yulia Stepanenko and Lyubov Shvetsova joined the Latvia First party founded by Ainars Šlesers, but were expelled from it after they did not join the party’s condemnation of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. At the heart of Stepanenko’s political activity and the party’s programme is the position that “the traditional family must take precedence over the interests of any other group or state”.

War and security: the Agenda mentions neither Russia nor Ukraine, and calls for conflicts to be resolved through diplomacy rather than armaments.

13. 13. Tauta. Zeme. Valstiskums. (People. Land. Statehood.)

At the top of the list is Alexander Kirstein, who was expelled from the National Alliance faction after his participation in a trip to China paid for by the Chinese government. The Programme emphasizes that the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 is unrealistic. The party supports the development of nuclear energy and opposes the use of wind power.

War and security: continue support for Ukraine’s air defences, and expand diplomatic consultations with the US, India, China and Turkey. No mention of Russia and its aggression.

Political group: both the European Conservatives and Reformists Group(https://ecrgroup.eu/) and the Identity and Democracy Group(https://www.idgroup.eu/) are considered partners. It includes Alternative für Deutschland, which is seen as a threat to democracy by Germany’s internal security services, and France’s multiple presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

14. Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība (Green and Farmers’ Union)

The leader of the list, Harijs Rokpelnis, is the chairman of the ZZS Saeima fraction, and two members of the government are also running – Minister of Welfare Uldis Augulis and Minister of Agriculture Armands Krauze. The programme highlights the representation of farmers’ interests, the need to increase EU support for agriculture and to adapt it to local needs. EU countries should “develop common criteria for the admission of seasonal workers”. The list defends “the right of each EU Member State to national self-determination”.

War and security: support for Ukraine is essential in the context of European security. A single European military organisation is needed to strengthen defence capabilities. There must be a clear position on the import and transit of goods from aggressor countries.

15. Jaunā Vienotība (New Unity)

The list is headed by Valdis Dombrovskis, former Prime Minister of Latvia and now Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. In the second spot is former Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš, who recently resigned as Foreign Minister amid allegations of the use of special flights. In third place is Sandra Kalniete, a long-serving MEP and one of the founders of the Latvian Popular Front. “Freedom, democracy and the rule of law are the cornerstones of the values on which the EU is founded. These are the values on which Latvia’s future rests.”

War and security: Russia is a military threat, so we need to develop our military industry and provide all kinds of support to Ukraine as “an investment in the security of Latvia and the EU”. Supports Ukraine’s progress towards EU membership.

Political group: the EPP Group in the European Parliament, currently the largest in the European Parliament. The current President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is from this political “family”. Read more here: https://www.eppgroup.eu/

16. Politiskā partija Stabilitātei! (For Stability!)

The list does not include any well-known candidates and is the youngest of all those put forward – the average age is 35.5 years. The only list whose programme includes hints of a desire to leave the European Union. EU policies are “practically incompatible with the country’s development and a prosperous future”. If this remains the case, there needs to be “a serious examination of the question of remaining in the Union”.

War and security: believes that sanctions against Russia have not worked, so talks should be launched on the basis of “beneficial cooperation”, including the purchase of cheap energy. Does not condemn Russian aggression, does not mention Ukraine.


Pauls Raudseps is one of Latvia’s leading journalists. Born in the USA, he co-founded the newspaper Diena and has worked at Ir for the past 14 years.