World, EU, Brussels: 2024 EU Election Day 

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As the sun sets on the European Parliament in Brussels on 9 June, it is the same old stone and glass building as before, but the composition of its parliamentarians has changed. While the worst results could be avoided, there is not much to celebrate.

An hour earlier that evening, we had Belgian beers and crisps as we met near the Parliament with civil society allies, moaning at the results of the EU election slowly coming in one by one on television. Overall, there were losses for the Greens in most countries, while far-right parties all across Europe were rejoicing – parties which traditionally tended to sabotage green measures, questioned climate change or at least its urgency, and had many interests in common with the fossil fuel industry.

We share worried looks. It is likely that defending the EU Green Deal achievements and policies that protect Europeans from the worst impacts of climate change and pollution will be more difficult from now on, because some of our most important allies in the EU Parliament have not been re-elected. And the French, the Austrians and the Germans among us felt guilty, feeling responsible for their compatriots: French far-right Rassemblement National and Austrian far-right FPÖ parties got more votes than any other party in these countries, and German extreme-right AfD party came in second. 

Things don’t look much better in other countries, we learn, staring spellbound at the big screen revealing election result after election result.

The small silver lining is that pro European, pro democracy parties in the EU Parliament will remain the majority, and a right-wing majority could be avoided.

So in this moment, what can we do to avoid a feeling of disappointment and anxiety creep into our bodies? First we have to keep up the spirits!

We decide to join a singing flashmob, right at the stairs of the EU Parliament, the big square of the Parliament with gigantic election posters in front of us, and the reflection of the setting sun on the glassy, enormous parliament entrance behind us.

A few steps below us, a crowd of journalists and listeners gathers as we sing ‘Ode to Joy’ – the European anthem and ‘Bella Ciao’ to underline the fact that we are all determined to continue fighting for our future. And this is what we will do, we will fight for clean air and water and against polluters’ interests that are irreconcilable with liveable conditions on earth.

Once the songs are over, and the accordion and guitar stop, people move and go home. We stand in silence, watching the last rays of sun reflect from the Parliament building. But some energetic footsteps behind us make us turn around: The lead candidate of the Belgian left labor party PTB walks energetically towards the parliament’s entrance. His party won seats in the French-speaking part of Belgium and we assume he’s ready for a proper election party in the ‘holy halls’. He disappears into the building as quickly as he appeared, and we decided to leave.

But just seconds later, we almost bump into one of the most influential men in the EU Parliament: Manfred Weber from the center-right German CSU party, who was said to become Commission President in 2019. Although the elections confirmed his party as the biggest in the EU Parliament, there is no smile on his face, as he stiffly walks past us. Dawn is breaking over the square in front of the parliament now, and over the many bars surrounding it. We hear clamoring and move closer. There is the German Socialist Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, surrounded by a little crowd, talking at the top of his voice. He underlines what has been said in the days ahead of the elections: he pledges non-cooperation with the far-right, and wants to uphold the European Green Deal.

We are tired. Sometimes – probably most of the time, even – all things happen at once in Brussels.

We hop on our bikes and cycle home. Tomorrow is Monday and we are ready to start working and getting ready for a new legislative period ahead.