Road to EU 2024

EPP Charts New Course in 2024 EU Manifesto, Emphasizing Defence Priorities

January 2024
By Maximilian Powell

This week saw the circulation of a draft manifesto for the 2024 EU elections by the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in the European Parliament. The document signals a notable shift towards themes traditionally associated with right-leaning voters. It underscores the party’s dedication to diminishing “EU bureaucracy” across diverse policy realms, encompassing agriculture, technology, and social policies. Additionally, the manifesto proposes a European convention to reconsider the distribution of competencies between the EU and its member states.

A significant departure from its 2019 stance, the EPP’s latest draft omits any mention of social inclusion for migrants. Instead, the party reinforces its dedication to externalizing asylum centres and increasing returns to third countries as part of a strategy to fortify EU borders and curb the influx of ‘illegal migrants.’ The proposal includes a substantial boost for Frontex, the EU’s border agency, potentially expanding its personnel from the current 2,000 to 30,000.

Notably, the manifesto seeks to augment the EU’s role in defence policy by appointing a Commissioner for Defence. This commissioner would coordinate defence issues, promote cooperation, and ensure a dedicated EU defence budget of at least 0.5% of the EU’s GDP, equivalent to around €100 billion. The manifesto further advocates for increased investment in defence industries, improved military mobility, and the creation of a Single Market for Defence. The manifesto outlines initiatives such as a European missile defence and nuclear shield, a European equivalent of the US defence research agency DARPA, and increased production capacities. The EPP also supports discussions on transitioning from unanimity voting to qualified majority voting in foreign and defence policy decisions. The manifesto concludes by reiterating the EPP’s call for a “European Defence Union with integrated European forces on land, sea, and air by 2030.” While emphasizing cooperation, the party clarifies that it does not advocate for the creation of an EU army but envisions a structure akin to the Rapid Deployment Capacity scheme.

Currently under negotiation with party members, the manifesto is expected to receive approval at the EPP’s political assembly on 29-30 January, with the electoral congress scheduled for 6-7 March in Bucharest. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is widely considered the frontrunner for the lead candidate position, but nominations remain open until 21 February, and the final appointment is scheduled for March’s congress.

Recent polling by Europe Elects projects the EPP maintaining its position as the Parliament’s leading force, with 23.5% of votes and 178 seats.