Political bosses are plotting their parties’ promises ahead of next year’s European Parliament election — and this time around, they’re asking for more outside help.
Creating campaign manifestos — the policy-dense lists of campaign commitments — has typically been an insider affair. But in the wake of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, parties are now looking to shore up alliances with like-minded players and harvest new ideas.
The EU-level umbrella parties have been taking unprecedented steps to invite nongovernmental organizations, industry and even regular citizens to pitch priorities and ideas for their manifestos.
“The era of copy-pasting manifestos is over,” said German Renew MEP Svenja Hahn, who chairs the drafting committee for the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). For its outreach campaign, the party has scheduled a series of town halls in Denmark and Portugal, with gatherings in Lithuania and Rome still to come. A portal for submitting ideas is open until September 30.
The 2024 election is actually 27 distinct national contests — one in each EU member country — with campaigns run by national parties and those national organizations typically feeding ideas and priorities up to policy shops in Brussels.
Yet the parties are feeling pressure to be more visible to the average voter, contends The Good Lobby founder Alberto Alemanno.
“The European political conversation has to change — because inevitably, many of the challenges facing the European continent do require pan-European solutions,” said Alemanno, whose team created a new tracker to help civil society get more involved.
Parties are soliciting input earlier and with greater intensity than ever. And while party manifestos aren’t necessarily a central part of the campaign itself, they do form each party’s starting point in negotiations over priorities for the new European Commission — making it a tantalizing opportunity for corporate lobbyists and NGO campaigners alike.
Last cycle’s campaign for the center-right European People’s Party illustrates the real link between EU manifestos and Commission priorities: MEP Manfred Weber, then the EPP’s lead candidate, pledged to search for a cure to cancer — and the Commission quickly proposed Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. (The loss of a sibling to cancer is a sad experience in common for feuding EPP leaders Weber and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.)
This year, the EPP plans to create a portal for citizens and civil society to send in their ideas in the fall, according to a spokesperson. The European Greens already wrapped up a round of online public consultations in June.
The Party of European Socialists started a formal consultation process in 2019 with 80 NGOs. For the new campaign cycle, they invited 270 groups (including unions) to weigh in with their three priorities and policy wishes, said party Deputy Secretary General Yonnec Polet.
The PES is planning issue-specific brainstorm sessions for later this year, he added.