REGISTER HERE to have all the updates on the Conference on the Future of Europe
“We want the CoFoE to open up a new phase, a phase of participation, but also of change. To change the rules, because we have seen in this year and a half that there cannot be taboos. European democracy must be more efficient and effective.” - EP President SASSOLI
1. Citizens’ panel proposals on climate change, environment and health
Citizens proposed ways to improve health, fight climate change and protect the environment at a forum held in Warsaw on 7-9 January.
As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Warsaw hosted some 200 Europeans on 7-9 January 2022, who came for the third and final session of the European citizens’ panel dedicated to climate change, environment and health. Due to the current Covid-19 situation, some panel members joined remotely.
Panellists discussed their recommendations in five areas:
- Better ways of living
- Protecting our environment and our health
- Redirecting our economy
- Redirecting overproduction and overconsumption
- Caring for all
Participants voted on 64 recommendations: 51 were approved, while 13 did not reach the required 70% support threshold.
2. The citizen's proposal for transnational lists divides MEPs
The proposal to establish transnational lists for the elections to the European Parliament, divided this Wednesday the MEPs who analyzed the citizen recommendations of the CoFoE.
The citizens set in their conclusions the desire for an election to the Parliament, where voters could vote for different parties of European level, including candidates from several Member States.
Guy Verhofstadt, saw behind this point a demand to implement transnational lists. However, the EPP MEP Paulo Rangel accused Verhofstadt of carrying out "an abusive interpretation" of the citizen recommendations, since, according to him, the conclusions of the CoFoE do not explicitly mention the pan-European lists.
On the other hand, Renew, Greens and Social Democrats were in favor of moving towards the pan-European lists and, in addition, UEF Vice-President and S&D MEP Domènec Ruiz Devesa also valued very positively the proposal to reopen the debate on the European Constitution, set in the conclusions of the CoFoE citizen panels.
This EPRS publication seeks to put into context and offer insights on 10 key issues and policy areas that have the potential to feature prominently in public debate and on the political agenda of the European Union in 2022. Issue number 8 talks about the outcomes of the CoFoE.
If Treaty change is not on the horizon in the short term, then a scenario of 'soft' reforms could be considered, whereby some changes could be introduced by leveraging the full potential of the current Treaties. This would mean exploring the unused potential of the Treaties in several fields, from overcoming unanimity through qualified majority voting, using passerelle clauses to strengthen the EU dimension of European elections, or improving decision-making on the common foreign and security policy. In this respect, Parliament has already contributed in 2017 with a resolution offering a useful starting point, proposing for instance to limit the intergovernmental approach, make more frequent use of its own right of legislative initiative, reduce the number of Council configurations, and transform Council into a genuine legislative chamber. A mechanism to follow up on the conference's conclusions is also a possibility, in order to bring in 'soft' reforms.
One possible innovation is the introduction of a permanent participatory mechanism to involve citizens in EU decision-making beyond the traditional electoral period.
4. What’s Next?
The recommendations of the European Citizens' Panels will be presented and discussed at the Conference Plenary, where the Conference's final proposals will continue to be shaped.
The next Conference Plenary is set to take place on 21-22 January in Strasbourg. In the meantime, the Plenary Working Groups met on Friday 17 December in remote format to continue their preparatory work. Citizens across Europe can also continue to take part in the Conference through the Multilingual Digital Platform.
The remaining European Citizens' Panels will also be adopting their recommendations in the near future, in the following areas:
Panel 1 - A stronger economy, social justice and jobs / Education, culture, youth, sport / Digital transformation (to be held in Dublin, Ireland)
Panel 4 - EU in the world / Migration (to be held in Maastricht, The Netherlands).
5. Opinion articles and Papers
In the recent years there has been much talk about the erosion of liberal democracy, which has been manifested in various disturbing developments: from decreasing trust of citizens in the institutions of representative democracy and decreasing voter turnout to the growing political and societal polarization and the rise of the populist radical Right that promotes ethnic nationalism and attacks civil rights and individual liberties. In general, these developments have often been portrayed as signs of citizens’ dissatisfaction with democracy. - Filip Milacic is a senior researcher at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung’s office for “The Democracy of the Future” in Vienna.
EURACTIV: Our time to shape Europe
Taking into consideration the crises that the European Union has been through in the last decade, it’s obvious that the dialogue concerning its future is more than required. In any case, such a process shall now include the “voices” and concerns of the EU citizens and not just be a product of the EU institutions and member states. - Angelanna Andreou, Lefteris Vasilopoulos and Pinelopi Katsigianni are members of JEF Piraeus-Athens.
Responding to the democratic crisis is just as important as tackling the climate emergency. This is why we fought for the Conference on the Future of Europe, despite the reluctance of those who fear consulting citizens on the European issue, write Guy Verhofstadt and Pascal Durand. - Guy Verhofstadt and Pascal Durand are members of the European Parliament for the Renew Europe group.
GEOPOLITIQUE: Citizen Power Europe
The CoFoE could be the beginning of a process that values the creation of democratic citizen-centric ecosystems, inhabited by participatory processes increasing participants’ sense of efficacy in politics while addressing the most intractable issues of our times. In this new paper written by Alberto Alemanno and Kalypso Nicolaidis they explain why.
Protection of the rule of law in Europe requires going beyond what we already have in the EU rule of law toolbox and beyond merely Brussels. We need to expand and improve. We should start with listening to what people who live in the EU have to say. The recent European Citizen’s Panel‘European democracy / Values and rights, rule of law, security’ organised as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe proposed two excellent recommendations.
HUFFINGTON POST: La “congiuntura astrale” mai così favorevole per cambiare l'Ue
Conditions for the success of the operation are the electoral victory of Macron, the permanence of Draghi at Palazzo Chigi, and their triangulation with Scholz
BRUSSELS TIMES: A frank assessment of the Conference on the Future of Europe
At the first meeting of EU ambassadors of the New Year, the CoFoE was not even on the agenda. As France currently holds the EU presidency and CoFoE was the brainchild of President Emmanuel Macron this was a surprising omission.
As we enter 2022, it is 30 years since Citizenship of the EU was first introduced during the Maastricht Treaty negotiations. This led to the creation of the first transnational citizenship, affording all EU citizens with rights, freedoms and legal protections, write Suzana Carp and Justin Goshorn.
The Conference on the Future of Europe is a chance to address the most prominent issues in Europe’s regions and translate them into proposals for the future of the bloc, regional stakeholders say.
The success of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) depends on the geographical spread and depth of the debate and proper follow-up, EU stakeholders warn.
"We must show the same courage and the same determination of our founders and push for a new European democratic transformation: we will never give up on this. For 75 years, UEF has put itself to the service of the European unification and it will continue to do so.” - UEF President and MEP Sandro GOZI
1. THIRD INTERIM REPORT
Two interim reports have been published to date, covering contributions on the platform until 7 September 2021.
The aim of this third interim report is to cover in addition contributions up to 3 November 2021. It also provides more insights on events. More detailed information on contributions per Member State on the platform is provided in a supplementary report made available simultaneously on the platform. A further report and overview of contributions, including per Member State, will be made available early next year to cover new contributions added to the platform.
This report summarises the activity on the Multilingual Digital Platform for the Conference on the Future of Europe from its launch up to 3 November 2021.
In this period 29,012 contributions were recorded on the platform, with 9,337 ideas, 16,017 comments and 3,658 events covering all 10 topics.
The topics of European Democracy and Climate change and the environment have attracted by far the highest volume of contributions so far, followed by the open topic of Other ideas.
All EU countries have generated activity. Germany has the largest number of contributions in total numbers since the launch of the platform, but in proportion to their population smaller countries register more contributions, with Malta being the most active. In the recent period since 8 September, Hungary has generated the most contributions in proportion to its population. There are also some contributions from third countries.
Approximately 57% of contributors have identified themselves as men and 15% as women. However, more than a quarter of contributors have not provided information on their gender. In this regard, it should be highlighted that organisations can also contribute to the platform.
As regards the profile of participants, the representation of age groups is quite diversified, with 55-69 year-olds being the most active age group, closely followed by 25-39 year- olds.
A report on contributions per Member State has also been published and can be found here.
2. CoFoE PANEL ON EUROPEAN DEMOCRACY
Citizens’ Panel in Florence - Source: European Parliament multimedia center
Florence’s panel was the first to finalise its recommendations that concern a wide range of topics, including anti-discrimination, democracy and the rule of law, EU institutional reforms, the building of a European identity, and the strengthening of citizen participation.
Several recommendations would require changes to treaties, leading to clashes with the Commission, who have said they are unwilling to take such actions.
Guy Verhofstadt, CoFoE’s chair, told journalists that “it will be very difficult for European institutions to neglect the recommendations of the citizens. This exercise is organised by the EU, together with national parliaments, to actively involve citizens in the policymaking.”
There are nine recommendations dedicated to the reform of the EU. Most of them potentially go beyond the current treaties, as they aim to implement transnational democracy and involve citizens in policymaking regularly. More information on the European Union in the media and a daily news block such as the one dedicated to sports is one of the proposals that has met with the greatest response.
These recommendations will be discussed and voted on in January 2022 with the plenary in Strasbourg, where 20 ambassadors from each panel will present recommendations.
Check on the other citizens’ panels reports:
- EU in the world / migration
- Climate change, environment / health
- Stronger economy, social justice and jobs / youth, sport, culture and education / digital transformation
The next step, once the four panels complete the process and finalise their list of recommendations, is to bring the proposals to the different plenary sessions of the Conference on the Future of Europe, scheduled for 2022. The "ambassadors" of the panels will go there to defend their proposals and then an accountability process will begin in which the EU will have to explain how its agreements are being included in the regulatory corpus of the 27.
3. EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRIORITIES 2022
The European Commission has published its list on the priorities for the upcoming year and among them they highlight the need to keep on listening to the citizens and take part in European politics!
They encourage everyone to contribute to building a better Europe by taking part in the Conference on the Future of Europe. However, the Conference is not the only tool for citizen participation. There are also instruments such as the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) - through which EU citizens can directly petition the Commission for a new law - or citizens' consultations - where people can have their say on the priorities and scope of new initiatives, as well as on ongoing ones.
4. EU COUNCIL PRESIDENCY
French President Emmanuel Macron gave an overview on Thursday 9 December of the priorities France wants to pursue when it takes over the EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2022. Among the French Presidency priorities, UEF welcomes:
- EU sovereignty: The first objective of the French presidency will be to “move from a Europe of cooperation within our borders to a powerful Europe in the world, fully sovereign, free to make its own choices and master of its own destiny.
- A more humane Europe: Macron said he wanted to take advantage of the presidency to renew the EU’s “humanist vocation” by making it “more effective” and “closer to our citizens”. The Conference on the Future of Europe coming to a close in May should, according to him, mark the “start of this refounding momentum”.
5. CoR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE CoFoE
The Committee of European Regions published its own recommendations to the Conference on the Future of Europe. The CoR called for the establishment of a permanent EU citizens' assembly in interim report.
6. ARTICLES & OPINION PIECES
EURACTIV: Take back parliamentary control
The accountability of the European Commission to the directly elected Parliament is at a low point in history, and Parliament’s current leadership is completely neglecting its scrutiny role. It is time for a change, writes Renew Europe Group MEP Sophie In’t Veld.
The proposals made at the CoFoE for a fiscal union, veto-free EU decision making in foreign affairs, and transnational lists will need backing by civil society if they are to succeed, according to the newly elected president of JEF Europe Antonio Argenziano.
“Governments are obliged to react, they cannot bypass citizens’ proposals”, Italian socialist MEP Brando Benifei told EURACTIV in an interview on the CoFoE.
EURACTIV: Let’s imagine the Europe of tomorrow!
The Conference on the Future of Europe, launched in March seeks to give EU citizens a voice in determining the bloc’s priorities. Nathalie Colin-Oesterlé (EPP MEP and a member of the CoFoE) takes stock of what has been achieved so far.
How to teach history across Europe, and how it can contribute to a vibrant democratic culture was the question at the heart of a two day annual conference ‘History Education for a Democratic Europe’ last week, organised by the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe.
While big corporations and lobby groups enjoy access and influence upon global institutions and international decision makers, it is rare that citizens and NGOs are given the opportunity to speak up – and more importantly to be heard – in Europe.
The subject of the ongoing conference on the future of Europe is the reform of the EU. The debate is covering both institutional changes and modifications to individual policies. The course of the conference to date, however, is not of interest on the continent, being also unnoticed by the public in Poland. - Piotr Tosiek, Head of Department of Law and Institutions of the EU at the University of Warsaw.
POLITICO: Democrats for Europe: a new momentum
The European Democratic Party says it has a clear political platform, renewed ambition and a busy year ahead. MEP and EDP Secretary General Sandro Gozi details the party’s plan for 2022 and beyond.
MARTENS CENTRE: Prospects for the Conference on the Future of Europe
As the Conference begins to draw its conclusions, all eyes will be on how the institutions react and what their next steps will be.
Persons with disabilities do not have an equal access to the CoFoE, writes Yannis Vardakastanis (president of the European Disability Forum and a member of the CoFoE Plenary).
EURACTIV: It is time to speak up on the CoFoE!
The CoFoE aims to be an inclusive and participative process where all Europeans have a say on how our future European Union should look like. - Jesus Cordero is President of JEF Madrid and Joaquim Candel is International Officer at JEF Spain.
‘Belonging’ is the last of the three keywords announced as the motto of the upcoming French EU Council Presidency, along with recovery and strength. Why such an emphasis on a notion no government can buy and no parliament can pass legislation on? - Sébastien Maillard, Director of the Institut Jacques Delors.
FINANCIAL TIMES: Dutch vow to be EU’s locomotive rather than brake
Pro-European turn by new coalition government reflects shifting consensus about EU’s role.
JACQUES DELORS CENTER: A political enigma: Four open questions about the Conference on the Future of Europe
The CoFoE remains an enigma just five months before its projected end. In this policy brief, Lucas Guttenberg outlines the four main open questions that will determine the outcome of the conference and whether it will be judged a success.
7. HOLIDAYS BREAK
UEF Secretariat in Brussels will be closed from 24th December to 3rd January 2022. UEF takes this opportunity to wish you all a safe and happy holiday season and a federalist new year!
"The past year’s crisis underscored the need for a more united Europe. We must seize this opportunity to make the Conference on the Future of Europe a true forum with citizens to work together to achieve a more sovereign and democratic Europe." - UEF President and Renew MEP Sandro Gozi.
1. ITALY AND FRANCE SIGN QUIRINALE TREATY TO STRENGTHEN COOPERATION
Quirinale Palace, 26/11/2021 - Italian Prime Minister Mario DRAGHI and French President Emmanuel MACRON sign the "Treaty between the Italy and the France for enhanced bilateral cooperation" at the Quirinale Palace, in the presence of President MATTARELLA.
Last Friday, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mario Draghi, and the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, signed at the Quirinal Palace, in the presence of the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and the Italian and French delegations, the "Treaty between the Italian Republic and the French Republic on enhanced bilateral cooperation". The Agreement is also known Quirinal Treaty after its place of signing.
UEF President and MEP Sandro GOZI, who attended the signing of the Quirinal Treaty as part of Emmanuel Macron’s French delegation said “This treaty is even more strategic at this moment, with the Conference on the Future of Europe underway, the upcoming French presidency of the Council of the EU and the debate on the eurozone. The French-Italian Treaty and the German Coalition Agreement are both very good news for Europe.”
In future, Italy and France will cooperate more intensively in the fields of diplomacy and defence, digital and environment, culture and education, science and industry, and space. The Treaty also aims to introduce a joint voluntary service for young people. Furthermore, Italy and France intend to coordinate from now on with each other before decisions are made at European level - similar to the long-standing practice between Paris and Berlin. The Italian-French Treaty also stipulates that ministers from both countries will regularly attend meetings of the other government.
The Quirinal Treaty is modelled on, but not intended to replace, the 1963 Elysée Treaty between France and Germany and the addition it received in 2019 through the Treaty of Aachen. French President Macron stressed that the Quirinal Treaty is not a competitor for French relations with Germany. It rather aims to strengthen Europe as a whole.
UEF President and MEP Sandro GOZI said "I am convinced that the European unification process with 27 Member States must rest on a solid political, industrial and geopolitical foundation, on a tripod of Rome, Paris and Berlin. This does not mean creating new divisions between countries but, on the contrary, fostering a dynamic group of countries and peoples working resolutely and comprehensively to ensure that all the common goals decided by the 27 are actually achieved."
The initiative for this Treaty came from French President Emmanuel Macron already in September 2017, who presented the idea for this treaty during the Franco-Italian summit in Lyon. Negotiations were taken up in early 2018 chaired by the Undersecretary for European Affairs in the Gentiloni government, Sandro Gozi, and the French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau. The drafting of the project had been entrusted to a group of six "wise men". However, negotiations came to a standstill in 2018 when the government of Lega and the Five Star Movement took office in Rome and clashed repeatedly with Macron over the issue of immigration and sympathy for the Yellow Vests protests, among other things. After Draghi took office in Rome in February, the negotiations on the bilateral cooperation agreement got moving again. In many bilateral meetings between Draghi and Macron since then, open questions of detail were negotiated.
Further information on the Quirinale Treaty:
2. A BIG STEP TOWARDS A FEDERAL EUROPE
With the title "Dare to make more Progress - Alliance for freedom, justice and sustainability", the representatives of the Sozial Demokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN and Freien Demokraten (FDP) presented their Coalition Treaty on 24 November 2021, after around a month of negotiations. The 178-page Treaty is intended to form the basis for cooperation between the three parties, which want to build the federal government for the next four years.
The seventh of a total of 9 chapters deals with "Germany's responsibility for Europe and the world." German interests should be defined in the light of European interests, according to the three parties.
One of the most ambitious goals of the so-called "traffic light coalition" is the further development of the EU in crucial areas: for example, the CoFoE should lead to a constitutional convention and to a further development into a European Federation, organized decentrally also according to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
"UEF welcomes the clear commitment of the coalition partners to the creation of a European Federation. The call for the creation of a European Federation is our core petition that we, together with our Sections, have been calling for since our foundation 75 years ago." says Sandro GOZI, President of the UEF and MEP.
Read the Press Release here.
3. CITIZENS' PANELS
Following the first round of sessions that took place in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in September and October, the European Citizens’ Panels continued their work in putting forward citizens’ priorities and recommendations.
Around 800 randomly selected European citizens met virtually during November to discuss issues in the second session of the citizen’s panels of the CoFoE.
The meeting, which took place during the weekend, takes up the different debates that began almost two months ago, and aims to make concrete recommendations along five different thematic axes on each thematic panel.
The recommendations of the citizens on this panels will be finalised and adopted at the third and final round of deliberations over the coming weekends, to be discussed in the Conference Plenary in December and January.
4. INTERPARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE MEETING ON THE CoFoE
During the Interparliamentary Committee meeting on the CoFoE, organised by the European Parliament, an important number of MEPs pointed at the need for written reports and proposals coming out of the CoFoE Plenary Working Groups, instead of merely oral reports. Guy Verhofstadt mentioned that the CoFoE Co-Chairs will meet with the Plenary Working Group Chairs to discuss various concerns related to the Plenary Working Groups. The idea of a joint meeting among two of the CoFoE Plenary components - 108 MEPs & 108 national MPs - was welcomed by Verhofstadt.
5. YOUTH IMAGINE EUROPE'S FUTURE
A delegation of European youth ambassadors were invited to the European Parliament to present and debate the results of a report that brought together around 10,000 young people from around the EU, who gave their contributions on the future of Europe. Kalojan HOFFMEISTER, of the Young European Federalists, and Niamh MCGOVERN, co-chair of the European youth event were the youth representatives present in the parliament to explain the report.
Federalism and stronger European harmonisation at the heart of European youth delegation presentation on Future of Europe.
Youths supported better fiscal integration in the Union, and a common fiscal policy for a fairer distribution of funds between wealthy and developing countries. and minimise bureaucracy. They expressed a desire to reform the European electoral system. “EU youth want to participate in a truly European democracy, not just 27 national democracies that just so happen to come together every five years.”, said HOFFMEISTER. According to him, youths want transnational electoral lists that would show the structure and members of the political groups across the EU, so citizens have a better idea of who they’re really voting for during the European elections. HOFFMEISTER also said it is the wish of the European youth to abolish the unanimity rule, strengthen the role of the Commission and the EP for dealing with the rule of law, and finally make clear that the ultimate authority on points of law is the European Court of Justice.
UEF Vice-President and MEP, Domènec RUIZ DEVESA, responded with some feedback on transnational lists “I see how transnationalism is not necessary at the national level because the candidates are well known at the national level but this is not the case at the supranational European level.”
6. THIERRY BEAUDET AND CHRISTA SCHWENG: "FOR A EUROPE OF CIVIL SOCIETIES"
To face new global challenges, the time has come for a new deepening, which will involve a Europe of civil societies: trade unions, employers, associations and NGOs.
This is why, one month before the French presidency of the Council of the EU and in the wake of the CoFoE, the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council and the European Economic and Social Committee are organised summit to speak with one voice on the future of Europe, the content of recovery plans, environmental transition, the primacy of European law, trade and cooperation.
In her opening speech, EESC President Christa SCHWENG made clear the Committee's ambitions: to provide civil society with the opportunity to make its voice heard that the Conference alone cannot fully satisfy. The number of people accessing the platform is still low, and citizens are not well informed. The process needs to be speeded up.
7. NEXT STEPS
In December and January, the Panels will meet in four European academic institutions (in Dublin, Florence, Natolin/Warsaw, and Maastricht) to finalise their recommendations so they can be discussed at the Conference Plenary.
In light of the evolving COVID-19 situation in Ireland and the stricter measures announced there recently, the Co-Chairs of the Conference, having sought advice from partners, have decided to postpone the European Citizens' Panel 1 meeting that was supposed to take place in Dublin on 3-5 December. New dates will be announced in due course, in order to facilitate an engaging and fruitful citizens’ deliberation in an effective manner. The rest of the Conference calendar remains as is. In the meantime, Europeans can continue to share their ideas on how to shape the EU’s future on the Multilingual Digital Platform.
8. OPINION ARTICLES
The great expectations some have for the ongoing Conference on the Future of Europe, and the little that is known about it, weigh heavily on it, writes Christian Moos.
- The Parliament Magazine: How inclusive is the Conference on the Future of Europe?
It is a pretty safe bet that most Europeans outside the Brussels bubble have never heard of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). To those of us who care about a more participatory democratic culture in Europe this is a significant challenge – we need to help make sure the Conference is a success, writes Roger Casale.
- Euractiv: How to prevent Europe from stalling
National elections just passed in Germany and upcoming elections in France deprive Europe of political leadership. But there is an electoral solution that could solve this problem, writes Matteo Garavoglia.
The past year’s crisis underscored the need for a more united Europe. We must seize this opportunity to make the Conference on the Future of Europe a true forum with citizens to work together to achieve a more sovereign and democratic Europe, says UEF President and Renew MEP Sandro Gozi.
Despite participants’ fears that the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is not making headlines and therefore might not be as impactful as hoped, a European Parliament spokesperson has reassured them that the media is listening and their voices will be heard.
The Conference on the future of Europe is faltering, but EU institutions and member states can still save it. And they should, as it could be a key tool to re-engage the citizens, writes Nicoletta Pirozzi, head of programme on European Union and institutional relations manager at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI).
The Conference on the Future of Europe is underway but there is a great risk that it will turn out to be a lost opportunity. This is due mainly to the inaction of “pro-European” governments and parties and the European institutions, writes Roberto Castaldi.
Organisers of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) are “encouraged by the number of visits to the platform and endorsements”, a spokesperson for the conference told EURACTIV. This comes following concerns from some participants that the event was not getting enough attention.
One important issue that the Conference on the Future of Europe needs to deal with is the relationship of the EU with the rest of the world. For me, that ‘rest of the world’ begins a few kilometres from my home in Sligo – the border that the British imposed in Ireland a hundred years ago, says Irish MEP, Chris MacManus.
Europeans must mobilise in demanding a better EU as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). However, a more united and democratic Union is not in everyone’s interest, and some political actors are consistently striving to make the consultation process meaningless. In response to this, we must make the Conference too big to ignore.
The Conference for the Future of Europe is well underway. Still, concerns have been raised from the get-go that citizens’ proposals might not be taken seriously or implemented fully by European lawmakers for various reasons. But there is still time to turn things around and for institutions to demonstrate they are listening to citizens, said Jonathan Moskovic in an interview with EURACTIV. Jonathan Moskovic is the democratic innovation advisor to the president of the French-speaking Brussels parliament, Magali Plovie.
"We should support those citizens who want to move forward and that are openly discussing in the CoFoE with no taboos. We should reform the treaties to ensure a new sovereign, democratic and federal Europe." - MEP Brando Benifei, outgoing President of the Spinelli Group.
1. CoFoE 2nd Plenary
This past weekend, the Conference Plenary discussed reports from the European Citizens' Panels, national panels and events, the EYE and the Platform.
This Conference Plenary meeting represented two major milestones in the context of the Conference. On the one hand, the 80 representatives of the European Citizens' Panels that have been selected from the pool of 800 that convened in Strasbourg in September and October took their seats. On the other hand, for the first time, the Plenary discussed citizens' contributions stemming from the different components of the Conference as they currently stand, while deliberations, events, and online debate continue.
The Plenary comprises representatives from the European Parliament (108), the Council (54, or two per member state) and the European Commission (3), as well as from all national Parliaments (108) on an equal footing, and citizens (108). As part of the citizens’ component, representatives from the European Citizens’ Panels (80), representatives of national events or national citizens’ panels (27, or one per member state) and the President of the European Youth Forum take part in the deliberations. In addition, representatives from the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee (18 from each), elected representatives from regional and local authorities (6 from each), and representatives of the social partners (12) and civil society (8) participate as members. For the first time, representatives from the Western Balkans participated as key partners.
On Friday, the Plenary working groups, composed of representatives from all components of the Conference Plenary (incl. MEPs, national parliamentarians, government representatives, the Commission, social partners, civil society, and citizens) met for a constitutive meeting. On Saturday, the Plenary meeting was opened by the Co-Chairs of the Conference's Executive Board, Guy Verhofstadt (European Parliament), State Secretary Gašper Dovžan on behalf of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU and European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica. The discussions revolved around:
- a presentation with first impressions from the European Citizens' Panels by representatives from each Panel and by the Co-Chairs;
- a report by the representatives from national panels and events;
- a report from the European Youth Event; and
- a presentation by the Co-Chairs of the interim reports and state of play on the Multilingual Digital Platform.
The Co-Chairs of the Conference made the following statements from Strasbourg:
Guy Verhofstadt (European Parliament), said: “The enthusiasm in the Citizens’ Panels is great, expectations are high, the formula is working. Now the Plenary has to find answers to the issues raised, in the form of a shared vision of Europe’s future and concrete deliverables on how we reform the European Union. EU politics have to rise to the occasion.”
Gašper Dovžan (Presidency of the Council) commented that: “Tens of thousands of citizens continue to discuss the future of Europe in the European and national panels and events, as well as on the Platform. The Plenary will debate and bring forward their recommendations in the areas that matter most to them, without a predetermined outcome. This is the first Plenary under the Slovenian Presidency of the Council and we were very pleased to welcome representatives from our Western Balkans partners as key stakeholders with whom we share responsibility for the future of the EU.”
Dubravka Šuica (Vice-President of the European Commission) stated: "This is a historic moment where, for the first time, citizens deliberate on a par with their elected representatives at all levels. Bringing citizens to the core of European policymaking will reinforce our representative democracies, as we set sail towards our common future.”
A little less positive was the balance drawn by the citizens who participated in the plenary, who complained about the lack of concreteness of the working groups - with the exception of the one on health, chaired by European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič and judged very positive - and to have known only the previous day what the order of business would be.
The plenary itself was the subject of criticism, due to the shorter time allowed for speeches by citizens compared to those of politicians - many of whom, moreover, did not participate in the afternoon session - and the generic nature of many of the speeches heard in the classroom. The complaints were expressed directly in the hemicycle through the words of a Dutch delegate, who asked for more space to speak and received the applause of all present.
A position that Verhofstadt seems to have taken into account. In the press conference at the end of the assembly, the representative of the EU Parliament said that "the central role of citizens will become even more evident in the next plenaries, when they present their recommendations and proposals and others will be able to react on the proposals".
Verhofstadt added that "the most important novelty of the Conference is the active part of citizens in decision-making processes", and that the mechanism used could "become permanent", as a demonstration "of the fact that participatory and representative democracy can work together".
2. UEF IN THE PLENARY
UEF was represented in the Plenary of the CoFoE with our President and MEP Sandro GOZI, Vice-President and MEP Doménec RUIZ DEVESA and Secretary General Anna ECHTERHOFF.
"Citizens are asking for a more federal and social Europe. They are calling to remove the veto in the EU Council, to strengthen EP powers, a Pan-European constituency, etc. Let’s do not disappoint europeans.” said UEF Vice-President and MEP Doménec RUIZ DEVESA in the Plenary.
"We must strengthen European democracy by granting more powers to the EP. We need: a uniform electoral law, the creation of transnational lists leading to the formation of real European parties and legislative initiative for the EP." highlighted UEF Secretary General Anna ECHTERHOFF
"We should support those citizens who want to move forward and that are openly discussing in the CoFoE with no taboos. We should reform the treaties to ensure a new sovereign, democratic and federal Europe." added MEP Brando Benifei, outgoing President of the Spinelli Group.
"We all share responsibility for making the #CoFoE its Platform known. We need to develop a common consciousness to have the Conference awaken, focusing on a few concrete proposals to ensure greater effectiveness for Europe & its values." said European Union Deutschland Secretary General Christian MOSS.
3. SPINELLI GROUP CAUCUS
The Spinelli Group (SG) caucus meeting took Place last Friday in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The caucus should serve to coordinate and defend the federalist and pan-European interests in a transversal way in all the WGs, and make them ambitious, with concrete proposals and conclusions. To this end, the SG distributed a Manifesto defending the main federalist ideas. As a cross-cutting group with different ideas, the SG will join forces to focus on the points in common and to ensure that the inclusiveness of the group is strengthened, without neglecting coordination between the political groups. This is the strength of the GS, the only cross-party, transnational and pan-European group.
During the caucus meeting, the change of the Spinelli Group rotatory Presidency took place. We’re happy to announce that Daniel Freund will be the new President of the Spinelli Group on behalf of Greens/EFA. UEF thanks Brando Benifei for his amazing work this year as our first President for this mandate!
4. UEF LIVESTREAM INTERVIEW
Right after the 2nd CoFoE Plenary, a Live Stream analysis from a federalist perspective was scheduled with the President of UEF, MEP Sandro GOZI. The interview was conducted by Nana WALZER. The President shared his impression of the Plenary commented on the topics and working priorities the Federalists addressed in over the weekend session.
5. ANGELA MERKEL AND THE CoFoE
The Conference on the Future of Europe, which now-outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested could be the place to solve Poland’s rule of law issues, has been paid little attention. But that does not mean those attending have not been busy.
“The Conference on the Future of Europe is actually a good place to discuss,” said Merkel as she entered the European Council on Thursday (21 October).
She also suggested that the CoFoE is a good place to talk about “how the individual members envisage the European Union”. Despite this, even though the conference had its second plenary on 23 October, it failed to make many waves.
6. NEXT STEPS
The next two meetings of the Plenary will be held on 17-18 December and 21-22 January to discuss the recommendations of the four European citizens’ panels that will wrap up their work by then. Co-chair Verhofstadt underlined that these sessions will have a different setup, with more time for the representatives of the panels to present their conclusions and a debate with other Plenary members on the concrete topics.
In the meantime, citizens’ contributions to the Conference will continue to flow in:
- the European Citizens’ Panels will meet online in November, and the first two will finalise their recommendations and present them in Plenary in December;
- the Multilingual Digital Platform remains available for citizens’ ideas and events, which will become part of the third report due for December, and which will feed into the last sessions of European Citizens’ Panels and the upcoming meetings of the Conference Plenary;
*Feel free to contact UEF Secretariat if you may have any questions on the CoFoE or the Digital Platform: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Young people must be able to shape Europe’s future.” - President von der Leyen
1. 3RD CITIZENS PANEL
The third panel on the Conference on the Future of Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg has just ended, where citizens from all over Europe have brought forward the ideas that animate the EU democratic experiment that began last spring.
Environment, climate and health are among the key topics in the debate between citizens and experts in the plenary. It is clear from the first debate on Saturday that the way we live and consume is no longer sustainable for the planet and that we need to change our habits and find solutions to lower CO2 emissions. On health, we talk about interoperability (that is, the exchange of health information between member states), artificial intelligence, technological development to implement disease treatment, and the need to protect European health data even better.
Citizens are more ambitious than EU leaders regarding the process of European integration: they are discussing the abolition of unanimity in the Council and the shifting of some competences, transferring more competences at the European level. It should be remembered that President Ursula Von der Leyen, during her State of the Union address, said that there will be action on existing treaties. Many of the topics under discussion at the Conference, aim to overcome them.
In their next meetings, panellists will come up with ideas on how to achieve healthy lifestyles, protect biodiversity, produce safe and healthy food, reduce waste, regulate consumption, and reinforce European health systems, etc.
These topics were divided into five subgroups to be addressed in depth:
- Better ways of living
- Protecting our environment and our health
- Redirecting our economy and consumption
- Towards a sustainable society
The panel on climate change, environment and health will meet online on 19-21 November. The third session will take place on 7-9 January in Warsaw.
Before that the citizens’ panel discussing migration and the EU's role in the world will meet for the first time in Strasbourg on 15-17 October.
Did you miss last weekend's CoFoE Citizens' Panel on climate change, environment & health? Watch the plenaries back:
Fri 14h http://bit.ly/3l0jnKe
2. EUROPEAN YOUTH EVENT
Recycling, multilingualism, the rule of law and a push for a federal Europe were among the main ideas by the 10,000 young participants.
The European Youth Event (EYE2021) took place on 8-9 October, with 5,000 young people at the European Parliament in Strasbourg and another 5,000 online, to discuss more than 2,000 ideas for shaping the future of Europe.
The youth consultation process for the Conference on the Future of Europe started in May 2021, in collaboration with pan-European youth organisations, and collected more than 2,000 ideas on the future of Europe through the online youthideas.eu platform.
Among the proposals brought up at EYE2021, participants put forward concrete ideas to make recycling easier across the EU, to make the so-called ‘Article 7’ procedure, protecting EU values, more effective, and the reforming of language learning in schools to promote multilingualism. With climate change, COVID-19 and international security concerns identified by the youth representatives as significant challenges to the EU, they came forward with proposals for a more federal Europe, together with ideas to keep companies more accountable for their contributions to climate change .
“We want this conference to open up a new phase, a phase of participation, but also of change. To change the rules, because we have seen in this year and a half that there cannot be taboos. European democracy must be more efficient and effective. The European Parliament is very ambitious on this. We believe that today it is urgent to look at where we are, and where we want to go. This is an unprecedented exercise, because you, young people, the citizens of the Union, and all of us are called upon to contribute to this debate and to find ways forward together.”, said the European Parliament President Sassoli at the EYE.
The most popular 20 ideas from EYE2021 will be presented by two young participants at the next plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe, taking place in Strasbourg on 22-23 October 2021.
Find more facts and figures on the EYE2021, here.
3. CONFERENCE OBSERVATORY
The Conference Observatory runs parallel to the Conference, monitoring, analysing and contributing to the debates. In addition to providing input, organising events and communicating around the issues, the Observatory runs an independent High-Level Advisory Group.
The independent High-Level Advisory Group accompanies and seeks to shape the Conference process and outcomes, at different levels and phases. Throughout the Conference and especially in its final phase, the Group will make recommendations on the possible results and outcome of the Conference.
The High-Level Advisory Group brings together a small but diversified group of experts, policymakers and civil society actors, capable of generating new ideas with regard to the future of Europe, and communicating them effectively in the public debate. The group is jointly chaired by Herman Van Rompuy, President Emeritus of the European Council, and Brigid Laffan, Emeritus Professor at the European University Institute.
4. EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF REGIONS’ PLENARY
Local and regional leaders held a debate with Dubravka Šuica, European Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography. The members of the European Committee of the Regions' (CoR) underlined the role the Commission is playing in making sure that the voice of regions, cities and villages are represented in an adequate manner within the Conference. They reiterated their call to ensure that the debate on Europe's future reaches citizens through local and regional authorities, responding to their demands.
During his opening speech , Apostolos Tzitsikostas , President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the Greek Region of Central Macedonia, said: “I thank Vice-President Šuica for her hard work as Co-Chair of the Conference on the Future of Europe and for her support to all EU regional and local leaders. With each and every action that she undertakes, she is clearly proving that she is one of our best friend in Brussels. All regional and local delegates will work hard for the success of the Conference to bring Europe closer to its people.”
Dubravka Šuica, the European Commission's Vice-President for Democracy and Demography stated: "Without the involvement and dedication of the Committee of the Regions, the Conference could not fulfil its potential in reaching out to every citizen, from the mountains to the islands. The CoR’s commitment to “Bringing Europe closer to its people” and to reinforcing European democracy at all levels of government, and most importantly from the very roots, is instrumental to making democracy fit for the future.”
Register now for the latest edition of Conference Conversations, where speakers will focus on the CoFoE's European Citizens' Panels.
5. EP DELEGATION TO THE CONFERENCE
MEPs took stock of ideas flowing from the European Youth Event and ongoing Citizens' Panels. Members are looking forward to discussing them with citizens' representatives at the Conference plenary on 23/10.
- TAMPARE UNIVERSITY: The Conference on the Future of Europe: Promoting democracy and equality?
Professor Johanna Kantola writes about speaking as an expert on democracy and equality to the European Citizens’ Panel in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in September 2021.
The author of this opinion piece participated at the second ECP as one of the approximately 200 randomly invited EU citizens.
- CITIZENS TAKE OVER: Open letter to Conference Plenary: ensure the inclusion of marginalised communities!
"We want to hear your desires, demands, ideas, intentions, fears, and hopes about the future of Europe." - Guy Verhofstadt
1. CITIZENS’ PANEL 1&2
The first two citizen-led panels on the future of Europe already took place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. 200 ordinary citizens came together to discuss a wide range of topics under the heading “a stronger economy, social justice, jobs/education, youth, culture, and sport/digital transformation” and "European democracy/values and rights, rule of law, security". The other two panels will follow in the upcoming weekends. They will cover Climate change, environment/health (first meeting: 1-3 October), and EU in the world/migration (first meeting: 15-17 October).
Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) - Citizens' panel 2 - Plenary session
The panels were divided into 15 smaller working groups where the participants discussed a list of topics or focus areas that were important to them and scored them in an iterative process. The five most important topics from the working groups were then discussed in the plenary meeting, where they were regrouped and voted on.
Around 400 citizens from all 27 EU countries were in Strasbourg between 17-19 and 24-26 September. They were divided into 15 groups of 10-15 people each. Each subgroup worked in up to 5 languages. During plenaries interpretation was provided in all 24 official EU languages.
Over the course of the first two panels, participants discussed their visions and ideas related to the thematic clusters of their panels "Stronger economy, social justice and jobs / youth, sport, culture and education / digital transformation" and "European democracy/values and rights, rule of law, security".
One crucial problem was that citizens were not able to go into any depth into all the different policy areas subsumed by the overall theme. As is common in deliberative processes, subgroup discussions start out broad before becoming more specific. This ECP followed this strategy and delivered a concrete result which can feed into the next Panel sessions and help the process move forward. The problem is that in doing so, the design of this Panel arguably granted too much time to the general discussions and then rushed through the steps that delivered the final five streams. Variation in moderation styles and expert involvement were critically reviewed as well: several participants felt that some of the experts focused too much on promoting their own points of view and ideas instead of providing a balanced overview of their respective topics.
Despite some of the shortcomings, the first Citizens’ Panel of the Conference was responsibly set up by organisers, with due consideration of fundamental elements of deliberative exercises.
2. WHAT'S NEXT
The first sessions of panels 3&4 will be held in Strasbourg ( Panel 3 on 1-3 October, and Panel 4 on 15-17 October), the second online, and the third one in European institutes in other European cities (Dublin, Florence, Warsaw and Maastricht), in full respect of the applicable health and safety measures. The first two panels will present and debate their recommendations at the Conference Plenary in December 2021, while the third and the fourth will do so in January 2022.
By the final session of the Panels, these 800 citizens will formulate recommendations, which will be presented and discussed within the Conference Plenary. 20 citizens selected from each panel will deliberate jointly with the representatives of the EU institutions and advisory bodies, national Parliaments, social partners, civil society and other stakeholders - all as full members of the Conference Plenary. After these recommendations have been presented by and discussed with citizens, the Plenary will on a consensual basis put forward proposals to the Executive Board, who will draw up a report in full collaboration and full transparency with the Plenary. The three institutions – the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission – have undertaken to examine swiftly how to follow up effectively on this report, each within their own sphere of competences and in accordance with the EU Treaties.
3. HOW TO BETTER COMMUNICATE THE CONFERENCE
Sebastián Rodríguez, together with EURACTIV and Graphext analyzed the data on interactions mentioning the Conference on Twitter discovering that it is a EU bubble monologue, and not a conversation with citizens.
They came up with several recommendations to improve the CoFoE communication:
- Language matters: Avoid the word “citizen” in the context of the Conference, use storytelling, do not use acronyms and communicate in as many languages as you can.
- Aim for an authentic conversation: ask people for their opinions and listen to what they have to say, as if you’re having a conversation with your friends.
- Scale from local to European: connect a local or national debate to an European one.
- Innovate with the formats and platforms: real face to face conversations, explore new formats and platforms to reach new audiences.
Read the full article here.
- CONFERENCE OBSERVATORY : “Una casa para todos”: Observations from the first European Citizens’ Panel of the Conference on the Future of Europe
- CONFERENCE OBSERVATORY: The debate on the future of Europe has a German problem
- EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT THINK TANK: Citizens' engagement and expectations of the Conference on the Future of Europe
- Conference on the Future of Europe - Update of National best practices
- The European Parliament Think Tank has compiled its publications on the CoFoE and on many topics covered by the CoFoE
- STG POLICY PAPERS: What’s in an experiment? Opportunities and risks for the Conference on the Future of Europe
- EURACTIV: What place for diversity in the future of the European Union?
- EURACTIV: Time for fresh ideas: give young voices the chance to shape Europe!
- EURACTIV: Youth organisations want ‘more than just a seat in the room’ in talks on Europe’s future
ISSUE Nº 7
"We will make sure that young people can help lead the debate in the Conference on the Future Of Europe. This is their future and this must be their Conference too."
- Ursula Von Der Leyen, SOTEU 2021
The Conference on the Future of Europe is now officially underway, the first European citizen’s panel sessions are due to start this weekend.
1. CITIZENS’ PANELS
By the end of the year, the panels will formulate recommendations, which will be discussed at a plenary that brings together citizens, representatives of EU institutions and national parliaments as well as other stakeholders. The recommendations will feed into a final report, which will be prepared in spring 2022 by the executive board of the Conference, comprised of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. The European Citizens’ Panels are a central feature of the Conference organised by the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission based on their Joint Declaration. The first sessions of all four Panels will take place on Parliament’s premises in Strasbourg and begin working on draft recommendations within each Panel’s remit. This first European Citizens’ Panel will focus on a stronger economy, social justice, jobs/education, youth, culture, and sport/digital transformation, based on citizens’ contributions collected from across Europe on the Multilingual Digital Platform, as well as support and presentations from prominent academics.
Watch the plenary meetings of the European Citizens’ Panels live!
2. STATE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION 2021
In her State of the Union Speech, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, takes stock of the European policies of the past year and sets out the priorities for work in 2022.
After one of the toughest years in its history, Europe needs to look towards the future with renewed hope. In the coming months, the European Commission will therefore focus on the following priorities:
- Continuing the vaccination efforts in Europe and speeding up vaccination globally, as well as strengthening the pandemic preparedness.
- Working on closing the climate finance gap, together with our global partners.
- Leading the digital transformation that will create jobs and drive competitiveness, while ensuring technical excellence and security of supply.
- Ensuring fairer working conditions and better healthcare, and creating more opportunities for Europe’s youth to benefit from the European social market economy.
- Stepping up our cooperation on security and defence, and deepening EU’s partnership with closest allies.
- Defending European values and freedoms, and protecting the rule of law.
Von der Leyen proclaimed she would make 2022 the ’Year of European Youth‘, with young people being encouraged to contribute to the debate in the consultations of the Conference on the Future of Europe as this is “their future and this must be their Conference too“.
“Our Union needs a soul and a vision they can connect to. Or as Jacques Delors asked: How can we ever build Europe if young people do not see it as a collective project and a vision of their own future?,“ Von der Leyen asked.
Responding to EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, Von der Leyen promised to “give a follow up” on the conference’s conclusions.
In our SOTEU Livestream with views and visions of the European Federalists, UEF President and MEP Sandro GOZI and UEF Austria President and MEP Lukas MANDL welcomed the assessment made by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: the attention to young people, first of all, because the European project is primarily about securing their future; the attention to security, in all its aspects, social, health, geopolitical. Then, the reference to the greatest merit in the past year, which is undoubtedly in the area of combating the economic consequences of the pandemic with the multi-billion financial package, the recovery fund. And, as the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan shows, the proposal for the European Union to initiate the development of a true European Defence Union and to set up quickly an autonomous rapid reaction force. However, as European Federalists, we need also to stress the need of deepening European integration. The past year’s crisis made very visible the need for a more united Europe. Hence, we can’t miss the opportunity to make the Conference on the Future of Europe a true forum with citizens to work together to achieve a more sovereign and democratic Europe.
Find here the State of the Union 2021 - President von der Leyen's speech.
3. EUROBAROMETER ON THE FUTURE OF EUROPE
Attitudes towards the EU remain positive and broadly stable, according to the latest Standard Eurobarometer conducted in June-July 2021.
Optimism about the future of the EU has increased sharply since summer 2020, with two-thirds of respondents now holding a positive view (66%, +6 percentage points). This is the highest level since autumn 2009. Just over three in ten respondents are pessimistic about the EU's future (31%, -7) - the lowest level since 2009.
A clear majority is optimistic about the future of the EU in 26 Member States, while public opinion remains split in Greece. Optimism has increased in 22 countries since summer 2020, with very large increases in Malta (75%, +25), Italy (67%, +18) and Portugal (76%, +15). As a result of these changes, optimism is now the majority opinion in Italy (67%) and France (53%).
4. SLOVENIA PRESIDENCY ON THE CoFoE
According Slovenia’s State Secretary Gašper Dovžan, after the successive crises over two decades, a core issue for the Conference on the Future of Europe should be how to ensure the resilience of the EU and put policies in favour of European citizens first. This would include exploring how current shortcomings could be improved by establishing cooperation mechanisms or discussing what passerelles could be used, like abandoning qualified majority voting for quicker and faster decisions.
However, according to him, it would not be necessary to primarily talk about treaty change as there is more or less unanimity among member states to ensure that we debate policies and that we see how we could improve the functioning of the EU.
The Presidency main goal is to be inclusive and to have full transparency when it comes to member states wishes and that we are adequately representing the aggregate of views present in the Council and there is the need to put policies in favour of citizens first.
5.YOUTH AND THE FUTURE OF EUROPE
The European Youth Event (YE2021) offers a new experience for young people from all over Europe and beyond. Alongside in-person activities, this edition will feature exciting online activities on the dedicated EYE2021 platform under the tagline “The future is ours”.
Starting on October 4, EYE2021 will run online activities, leading up to the main event on 8-9 October in Strasbourg, which will feature online and in-person activities as well as new hybrid formats.
From the comfort of their home and from all over Europe, young people will be able to access the EYE2021 platform to watch and interact with online activities using any device available, be it desktop, tablet, or mobile.
The first interim report on the CoFoE digital platform has been published, unveiling the top ideas on the platform. It will be followed by two more reports.
The Conference on the Future of Europe can only lead to tangible results if Germany puts its full weight behind it – and fast. But with the upcoming federal elections and the change in government, there is a risk that Berlin will be too distracted.
The EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe is now underway, with conclusions expected to be reached by spring 2022. Spyros Blavoukos and Alexandros Kyriakidis assess what lessons the conference can learn from the Convention on the Future of Europe, which was launched in 2001 with the aim of drafting a European constitution.
- European Parliament Report: brief report on the main topics MEPs will be dealing with after the summer break, including the CoFoE. MEPs will take active part in the work of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which aims to come up with concrete proposals for change in the EU based on ideas put forward by citizens. A total of 108 MEPs are members of the Conference Plenary, which will next meet on 22-23 October.
- Policy Brief: The Future of Europe: What Role for Visegrad Cooperation?
Potential of the V4 countries to contribute to the Conference on the Future of Europe in relation to the climate agenda and the involvement of the Western Balkan countries.
This study fills a gap by addressing attitudes towards the European Union's future. The findings show citizens’ fine-grained future European Union preferences, which are meaningfully related to common explanations of European Union support. We also find cross-national differences linked to countries’ structural position within the European Union.
ISSUE Nº 6
There is nothing written about treaty changes in the common declaration and in the rules of procedure is a good thing. And if it is not firmly forbidden, you can do it.
- Guy Verhofstadt
71 years after the Schuman Declaration, the time has come to rethink the future of Europe by giving the floor to its citizens. The next 24 months will be decisive for the future of the Union, individual Member States and citizens, with new challenges, appointments, deadlines, new beginnings and changes at the international level.
1. CITIZENS’ PANELS UPDATE
Selection of citizens
The selection of the 800 citizens (and 200 citizens as a reserve) is currently taking place covering the entirety of the population (limited to EU citizens). Citizens are contacted by phone in several rounds in order to explain the purpose and obtain their consent. If they agree, they will receive a mandate letter explaining exactly what is expected from them and will receive professional support and guidance throughout the process.
In order to ensure diversity, the selection of participants is being done by randomly selecting citizens, with the aim of constituting “panels” representative of EU sociological diversity.
Each European Citizens’ Panel will be composed of 200 citizens. As the Conference aims at allowing a specific focus on youth, one third of the citizens composinga Citizens’ Panel will be between 16 and 25 years old.
Design and methodology
There will be four European Citizens’ Panels and the topics for discussion for each of the Panels, based on the themes of the Multilingual Digital Platform, will be clustered in the following way and order:
- Stronger economy, social justice, jobs/ education, youth, culture, sport/ digital transformation;
- European democracy/values and rights, rule of law, security;
Climate change, environment/health;
- EU in the world/migration;
The Panels shall take on board contributions gathered in the framework of the Conference through the Platform and formulate a set of recommendations for the Union’s institutions to follow-up on and which will be debated in the Conference Plenary.
The European Citizens’ Panels first session which will be divided into two phases:
- Which Europe they would want to see for them and their children in 2050, in relation to the theme of the Panel.
- A phase where the citizens will be asked to cross-examine their work on their vision with the first report from the platform.
Languages, timing and location
The panels shall meet during at least three deliberative sessions of minimum two days. All Panels will take place in the same overall period from autumn 2021 to spring 2022. For logistical reasons, the sessions of all Panels will not take place at the exact same time. They would therefore present their conclusions to different meetings of the Plenary. 2 Panels would present their recommendations to the Conference Plenary in December and 2 in January.
The panels will be in the 24 EU official languages with interpretation and will be live-streamed, while the documents of their discussions and deliberations should be made publicly available on the Multilingual Digital Platform. There will also be a dedicated section for the panels on the Platform, which will be used also for communication and deliberation purposes.
Information material provided to the Citizens prior to the event remain therefore basic and similar to the platform topic pages. The Panels will be accompanied by independent experts and they will introduce the topic and the Co-Chairs will inform in advance the Executive Board of the development of the practical modalities for the organisation of the European Citizens’ Panels.
Panel results and their input into the Conference Plenary
The Panels’ recommendations will be debated in the Conference Plenary meetings, feed into the final Conference report and constitute a part of the Conference output on which basis EU institutions will organise the follow-up. Citizens’ delegations from each Panel (20 representatives) will take part in the Conference Plenary meetings.
The European Citizens’ Panels will lead to a specific analysis/report based on the original citizens’ ideas as expressed during the deliberations. It will contain the final recommendations but also a detailed account of the content of the discussions.
2. SOCIAL PARTNERS AND REGIONAL AND LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES GET GREATER SAY IN THE CoFoE
The executive board of the Conference on the Future of Europe decided to allocate more seats in the Conference Plenary to both regional and local representatives, and social partners Amend the rules of procedure allocate six extra elected representatives of both local and regional authorities in the plenary. The board also agreed to increase the number of social partner representatives by four to a total of 12.
3. THE CoFoE AND THE ERASMUS GENERATION
As the Conference on the Future of Europe starts, Vice-President Schinas called “the Erasmus Generation to do for Europe what Europe did for the Erasmus Generation”. Schinas, who has been involved in consultations with young people, has understood that the future of Europe is closely linked to the growth of the Erasmus+ programme, including outside the EU. Schinas is asking the Erasmus Generation to step up and take ownership of the European project, engaging more actively in the construction of the Europe it wants to live in.
4. INTERESTING LINKS ON THE CoFoE & AROUND THE CoFoE
EURACTIV takes a closer look at the future of federalism within the EU, whether the idea holds relevance in today’s political climate and whether the Conference is likelier to drive or hinder the movement.
UEF President & MEP Sandro GOZI was interviewed on 16 July for EURACTIV, as part of this series, where he claimed for a strong federalist alliance within the CoFoE to booster support for Europe.
This Policy Brief offers some proposals, among the many that could and will be discussed, that could be embraced by European progressives and that may help to make the European Union and its institutions increasingly understandable to European citizens.
5. SUMMER BREAK
The next newsletter on the Conference on the Future of Europe will be released after the summer break.
UEF Secretariat in Brussels will be closed from 31 July to 8 August 2021. We will be back on 9 August 2021. UEF takes this opportunity to wish you all a safe and happy summer!
ISSUE Nº 5
"This is the right time to be politically ambitious and to fight for a sovereign and democratic Europe, capable of shaping a new world order, politically and economically. This will be our commitment in the Conference."
- UEF Secretary General, Anna ECHTERHOFF
1. 1st CITIZEN’S PANEL IN LISBON
The first European citizens' event, also in the framework of the Conference, was held on 17 June 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal, and live streamed online. The panel was composed of 27 representatives from national Citizens' Panels or national events (one per Member State), as well as the President of the European Youth Forum and a number of the citizens already selected for the European-level Citizens' Panels. The event, also organised in hybrid format, gave participants the opportunity to discuss their expectations from the Conference with the three Co-Chairs. These participants also attended the inaugural Plenary in Strasbourg.
You can rewatch the Lisbon Citizen’s Event here.
2. THE INAUGURAL PLENARY
The long awaited Conference on the Future of Europe held its first plenary session in Strasbourg on Saturday 19th June, hoping to succeed in encouraging citizens, who are not yet very involved, to participate in this vast consultation on the future of the European Union.
The agenda included presentations and discussions on the purpose and expectations of the conference, including European citizens' and national panels.
Portugal, the former holder of the EU’s six-month rotating Council presidency, organised the first ‘European Citizens’ Event’ earlier that week.
"This conference is a unique experience," boasted Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt in the hemicycle of the European Parliament. Verhofstadt, coordinator for the European Parliament delegation, explained that citizens would first express their wishes before passing the baton to the plenary, which would formulate "concrete proposals for reform" and then, finally, pass the baton to the EU institutions for their implementation. "We must make this conference work, we must have concrete results at the end," insisted Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State for European Affairs of Portugal.
"What we are trying to do now is to get European citizens to talk together and contribute ideas about the Europe we want to build," she added to an assembly composed mainly of 108 MEPs, 54 Council representatives, three members of the European Commission, 108 representatives of national parliaments and 16 representatives of social partners and civil society.
Speeches by the Parliament’s delegation set out a broad array of priorities. Most MEPs spoke about the Conference’s potential for reform, with many putting forward proposals for treaty change. A few doubted the Conference is going in the right direction - some consider it too ambitious, others say it is not ambitious enough. Nevertheless, virtually all agreed that the EU needs to change in order to respond better to crises and tackle internal and external challenges, and that reaching out to all citizens and shaping their ideas into concrete proposals is a top priority.
In addition to the plenary, the CoFoE will take the form of a multilingual online platform allowing European citizens to share their vision of the future of Europe. But while the participation of citizens in the debate remains the main unknown, the platform, which went live in mid-April, had attracted more than 17,700 participants by the day of the inauguration.
3. CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE PLENARY
The European Movement International has been allocated three seats in the CoFoE Plenary, as part of the eight civil society representatives.
Those three seats will be taken by Yves Bertoncini, Vice-President of the EMI, Petros Fassoulas, Secretary-General of the EMI and Anna Echterhoff, Secretary General of the UEF, as an International Association within the EMI. We strongly believe that being a part of the CoFoE Plenary is a remarkable and deserved milestone in the history of this organisation.
After WW2, the European Movement was created on the basis of unity, peace, and democracy. The Conference on the Future of Europe builds on this and is a unique opportunity to show how the EU delivers and benefits all Europeans, said Mr. Fassoulas.
Mr. Bertoncini reinforced that we must act even more together and reinforce the EU to be able to promote our interests and values at the world level. For this to happen, we must give citizens even more control on the EU’s functioning and decisions, at all levels.
Christa Schweng, President of the European Economic and Social Committee who took part in the plenary along with a delegation of 18 EESC members, said that the involvement of organised civil society and the EESC is “crucial in ensuring the broad participation of citizens.
4. UEF IN THE PLENARY
UEF, as an international association within and one of the founding organisations of EMI, believed in the importance of this Conference right from the start. Since the UEF foundation in 1946, and European Movement in 1948, we have been fighting for a Europe that is politically united. We are convinced that this is the right time to be politically ambitious and to fight for a sovereign and democratic Europe, capable of shaping a new world order, politically and economically. This will be our commitment in the Conference, said our Secretary General, Anna ECHTERHOFF, during the first plenary session of the CoFoE.
UEF is present in the Plenary also with its President Sandro GOZI, MEP, and its Vicepresident, Domènec RUIZ DEVESA, also MEP.
In his intervention Sandro GOZI summarized that we must be ready to respond to citizens' demands with concrete solutions, with political decisions, with new laws, but also with revisions to the Treaties.
On his part, DEVESA stated that we need a developed, ecologic, social and federal Europe. Paraphrasing what was said in the Schuman Declaration, we need creative efforts commensurate with the challenges that we are facing.
As UEF, through the participation of our President, Vice-President and UEF as part of EMI‘s delegation we have a unique opportunity to contribute directly to shaping the future of Europe: Let's build together a democratic and sovereign Europe!
5. ABOLISH THE RIGHT OF VETO & ASSIGN DIRECT POWERS TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
The EU should abolish unanimity in its foreign policymaking and not allow itself to be “held hostage”, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Monday 7th June, after several incidents in recent months derailed the bloc’s joint positions on a series of foreign policy matters. “If you do that, then sooner or later you are risking the cohesion of Europe. The veto has to go, even if that means we can be outvoted,” he added.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has repeatedly called for establishing qualified majority voting in EU foreign policy, especially on sanctions.
Most recently, the Netherlands and Spain argued in favour of revamping the rules, saying that “strengthening the EU’s ability to defend its public interests and increasing its open strategic autonomy requires effective decision-making mechanisms”.
Democracy is not compatible with the right of veto. Replacing unanimity with qualified majority decisions is indispensable for the full democratisation of the EU. For a true European democracy, let’s abolish the right of veto and assign direct powers to the European Parliament in taxation and foreign policy! Engage with UEF's proposal in the CoFoE digital platform.
6. MANAGED EXPECTATIONS: VIEWS ON THE CoFoE
This report reveals what individual member states want to achieve with the Conference and their expectations of the potential results. It brings together short contributions from a representative cross-section of EPIN members and distils the essential aspects. It investigates the respective governments’ positions on institutional reform ideas, EU Treaty change, prioritised policy fields, plans for national citizen participation and media coverage, as well as the general current political environment regarding further EU integration.
7. UEF XXVII European Congress – Our Federal Europe, Sovereign and Democratic
During the XXVII European Congress, held in Valencia on the first weekend of July, the UEF organized a political debate on the CoFoE with several guests and distinguished speakers. Among them, Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Co-Chair of the Executive Board of the CoFoE, thanked the UEF for raising awareness on the CoFoE and to involve the citizens into its process. She highlighted the importance of this, as the Conference has been conceived for citizens and depends on their inputs. Likewise, she praised the relevance of UEF website informative page in the CoFoE.
8. NEXT STEPS
The European Citizens’ Panels will convene in September and October to prepare their input to future plenary debates, including a set of recommendations for the Union to follow-up on, based on citizens’ contributions collected via the Platform. The Conference is committed to giving maximum space to young people and in this vein, preparations for the European Youth Event organised by the European Parliament on 8-9 October will also continue. The next Plenary session is scheduled for 22-23 October.
9. CoFoE PLAYLIST
Our President and MEP Sandro GOZI, who is also passionate about music, has created a themed playlist on Spotify inspired by this unique participatory exercise. You can listen to Sandro’s CoFoE soundtrack here!
ISSUE Nº 4
"If we draw lessons from the strengths and shortcomings of democratic politics in today’s world, we can find ways to reconnect people to the public interest and reshape the European Union they need for the future."
The CoFoE is underway establishing the composition of the Plenary and the Citizens’ Panels. Which MEPs will be joining the Plenary? What will be debated? On which dates? Here the latest news!
1.The Plenary Composition unveiled
The Conference Plenary will be composed of 108 representatives from the European Parliament, 54 from the Council (two per Member State) and 3 from the European Commission, as well as 108 representatives from all national Parliaments on an equal footing, and citizens. 108 citizens will participate to discuss ideas stemming from the Citizens' Panels and the Multilingual Digital Platform, along with the President of the European Youth Forum.
This graphic illustrates what the plenary session of the Conference on the Future of Europe will look like.
Political parties have been gradually revealing which MEPs will attend the Conference. The European Parliament has already decided how many will join for each political group. In this sense, there will be 28 delegates from the European People's Party, 23 from the Socialists and Democrats group, 15 from Renew Europe, 11 delegates from Identity and Democracy, 11 MEPs from the Greens, 9 from ECR, 6 from the Left and 5 from non-attached.
As announced already last week, UEF is honoured and delighted that our President, MEP Sandro GOZI, and our Vice-President, MEP Domènec RUIZ DEVESA, have been elected to represent the European Parliament in the Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
2.Inaugural Plenary, 1st Citizens’ event and Calendar of Meetings
The Executive Board approved last week the calendar of Plenary meetings and European Citizens' Panels, with the series of events starting in June.
The inaugural Conference Plenary will take place on 19 June 2021, in Strasbourg, with remote and physical participation, and will include presentations on the European Citizens' Panels and on the Multilingual Digital Platform.
A European citizens' event, will be held on 17 June 2021 in Lisbon, and live streamed online. This will be composed of 27 representatives from national Citizens' Panels or national events (one per Member State), as well as the President of the European Youth Forum and a number of the citizens already selected for the European-level Citizens' Panels. The event, also organised in a blended format, will give participants the opportunity to discuss their expectations from the Conference with the three Co-Chairs. These participants will also attend the inaugural Plenary in Strasbourg.
The Executive Board today also took note of the final practical modalities for the four planned European Citizens' Panels, including the topics allocated to each:
- PANEL 1: Values, rights, rule of law, democracy, security;
- PANEL 2: Climate change, environment/health;
- PANEL 3: Stronger economy, social justice, jobs/education, youth, culture, sport/digital transformation; and
- PANEL 4: EU in the world/migration.
They have also agreed on the official calendar of the Conference. Here are all the dates:
In addition, guidance was prepared to assist Member States and others wishing to organise citizens' panels and other events at national, regional or local level, under the umbrella of the Conference.
3.UEF 1st Political Proposal
UEF has published its first political proposal into the CoFoE digital platform. This time, we are calling for the abolition of the right of veto and we demand an assignment of direct powers to the European Parliament in taxation and foreign policy.
Democracy is not compatible with the right of veto. Replacing unanimity with qualified majority decisions is therefore one of the indispensable reforms for the full democratisation of the European Union.
In the current Treaties in particular, unanimity is still required in two crucial areas: taxation (where the size of the Union budget and the nature and extent of the resources that finance it are decided unanimously by the Council and this decision must then be ratified by all the member states; unanimity is also required for approval of the Multiannual Financial Framework) and foreign and defence policy (where every decision is taken by the Council or the European Council with the unanimous consent of all the states).
In these two areas, the time has come to structurally change the EU's decision-making system and abolish the unanimity rule. This means replacing the current forms of coordination between the national governments (which are the real cause of the existence of the veto right) with a fully democratic European government, accountable to and controlled by the European citizens. For this to happen - in addition to reforming the decision-making system in the Council and the European Council - the European Parliament must be given direct power so that it can assume the role of co-legislator and so that the Union can legislate on these matters through acts directly applicable in the member states.
Check out the UEF’s proposal here. We encourage you to engage and discuss it not only on the platform but also in our upcoming events! Stay tuned!
4.Slovenian EU Council presidency
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, whose country is set to take over the rotating EU Council Presidency, has admitted that the EU needs a “relaunch”. A Slovene presidency priority, he revealed, will be to set up an EU Institute for Constitutional Law to crack down on breaches of the rule of law.
The EU has found itself at loggerheads on this issue with Poland and Hungary, but Mr Janša, did not mention any particular Member States.
On Wednesday, Mr Jansa also stated that the new Conference on the EU’s Future would be an opportunity to breathe new life into the “European Project” and that “it’s important because it fits into the post pandemic phase and the relaunch of our economies.”
5.Civil Society Speaks Up
The launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe marks a turning point in the life of the Union. In this context, many organisations, think tanks and politicians are giving their opinion on how the Conference should be and what’s more important, the final outcome and follow-up of it.
Wojciech Przybylski (Visegrad Insight editor-in-chief and chairman of the Res Publica Foundation in Warsaw) discusses how the CoFoE is vulnerable to being hijacked by governments laundering their policies through friendly NGOs.
Dr Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf (head of international and European governance at the Ecologic Institute) reflects on how can the EU better help member states and their citizens in addressing the big challenges of the future - such as climate change?
To regain people’s trust in democracy, we need to fundamentally revisit the way our democracies work. The Conference on the Future of Europe is a chance to update the way Brussels does politics, Guy Verhofstadt and Dacian Cioloș write.
Dick Roche (former minister of state for European affairs when Ireland conducted the two referendums on the Treaty of Lisbon of the EU) establishes a comparison between the position in which the European Union is today and that in which Ireland found itself in 2001, following the rejection of the Nice Treaty in a referendum.
ISSUE Nº 3
"The Conference is not a panacea or a solution to all problems. We must listen to all voices, whether they are critical or complementary. But I do believe that this Conference is a real opportunity to bring Europeans together and unite around a common ambition for our future, just as previous generations did"
Ursula VON DER LEYEN
The Conference on the Future of Europe has begun. Over the coming year, Europeans are being asked for their input to shape the future of the European Union. Let us build together a stronger, more resilient, more democratic and more united Europe.
After launching the Digital Platform, the interest that citizens have shown has been very reassuring. In its first three weeks, the platform has gathered 7,600 participants, which have published more than 1500 suggestions. So far, they have organised more than 400 events and forums, and the number of people interested in participating is growing every day.
1. Rules of the game
The Conference Executive Board approved on 9 May the Rules of Procedure that set out the composition of the Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe, and how it will work.
The Conference Plenary will be composed of:
- 108 representatives from the European Parliament,
- 54 from the Council (two per Member State) and 3 from the European Commission,
- as well as 108 representatives from all national Parliaments on an equal footing, and citizens.
- 108 Citizens will also participate to discuss citizens' ideas stemming from the citizens' panels and the Multilingual Digital Platform: 80 representatives from the European Citizens’ Panels, of which at least one-third will be younger than 25, and 27 from national Citizens’ Panels or Conference events (one per Member State), as well as the President of the European Youth Forum.
- Some 18 representatives from both the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, and another eight from both social partners and civil society will also take part, while the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be invited when the international role of the EU is discussed. Representatives of key stakeholders may also be invited. The Conference Plenary will be gender-balanced.
Their exchanges will be structured thematically around recommendations from the Citizens’ Panels and input gathered from the Multilingual Digital Platform. The Platform is the single place where input from all Conference-related events will be collected, analysed and published. In due course, the Plenary will submit its proposals to the Executive Board, who will draw up a report in full collaboration and full transparency with the Plenary, and which will be published on the Multilingual Digital Platform.
The final outcome of the Conference will be presented in a report to the Joint Presidency. The three institutions will examine swiftly how to follow up effectively this report, each within their own sphere of competences and in accordance with the Treaties.
2. Official launch of the Conference
On May 9, European Union presidents finally opened the CoFoE in Strasbourg, France, after it was cancelled more than a year ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Presidents of the EU institutions delivered speeches on their vision for Europe, following a welcome speech by President Macron, while the Co-Chairs of the Executive Board answered questions posed by citizens from across EU Member States. 27 Erasmus students from across the EU, together with members of the Conference's Executive Board were physically present in the Parliament’s hemicycle, and over 500 citizens attended the event remotely through large TV screens. Ministers for European affairs, Members of the European Parliament and national parliaments, and other VIP guests also joined remotely.
At the opening, EU presidents agreed to draw lessons from the health emergency in order to act more quickly in the face of possible new crises, invest in research and science, and move towards greater integration of the community bloc.
"It would be a defeat to leave this conference without a response to health," said the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, pointing to lessons to be learned more than a year after the world was shocked by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Macron, host of the event, advocated strengthening the bloc's economic and political model, which he believes has benefited the European community in times of crisis, at least compared to other nations. "Our model is our strength and we have managed to resist together. We have managed a rapid response together, we built a vaccination campaign and we made it happen," the French head of state maintained. However, Macron also urged to act faster to end the emergency, acquire greater competences in areas such as health and address "essential" issues such as research and investments.
According to President von der Leyen, "The conference is not a panacea or a solution to all problems. We must listen to all voices, whether they are critical or complementary, it is a real opportunity to bring Europeans together and unite around a common ambition for our future."
Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa stressed that citizens are looking for the EU to focus on providing direct answers to concrete problems.
This position was echoed by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who said that "the point is that the EU must be what Europeans want it to be", while she especially encouraged young people to have their say after more than a year of pandemic.
Watch specific segments by clicking on the corresponding links below:
- Welcome speech by Emmanuel Macron, President of France
- Speech by David Sassoli, European Parliament President
- Speech by António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal for the Presidency of the Council of the EU
- Speech by Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
- Interventions by the Co-Chairs of the Executive Board: Guy Verhofstadt (Parliament), Ana Paula Zacarias (Council) and Dubravka Šuica (Commission)
- Or watch the entire event - including performances by Violinist Renaud Capuçon and the Karski quartet.
3. Civil society speaks up
During this week a bunch of civil society organisations as well as european personalities have raised their voices on the CoFoE calling for action.
Former High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, said to Euractiv that the Conference on the Future of Europe will provide a valuable framework to redefine the EU’s international role. However, to find the right answers, we must first ask the right questions. The Conference on the Future of Europe can catalyse much-needed reflection on how to revamp the EU’s external action. But, most importantly, if the EU wants to secure its position as a top-tier geopolitical player, it should overcome self-doubt and learn by doing, writes Javier Solana.
The Conference on the Future of Europe can contribute to this process if it genuinely and concretely involves our local communities and if it gives voice to people in our regions, cities and villages. This is key to avoid a top-down exercise that would only feed the demagogic and anti-European false narrative of populists and eurosceptics. With the CoFoE, the European Committee of the Regions, would like to establish a strong regional and local dimension of the entire conference in all EU member states, by engaging with citizens at regional and local level.
UEF, together with the Spinelli Group and supported by the European Movement International, we have launched the Appeal “Our federal Europe: sovereign and democratic”, in which we have summarised our ideas for the future. Today, we need and want a strong, legitimate, and properly financed political Union that can tackle the great transnational challenges of our time, acting decisively in a wide range of policy areas, from climate change, growing social inequalities, health and migration to foreign affairs and defence. Moreover, we are calling for stronger pan-European democracy — real European political parties and movements and proper campaigns for European elections, based on the creation of a pan-European constituency and transnational electoral lists headed by the candidates for President of the European Commission. We are striving for a Union that is both a community of destiny and values and a model for the new world now taking shape - an example of how countries can live in peace together, build cross-border and social solidarity, and protect human rights, the rule of law, and fundamental freedoms.
The initial signatories were: Sandro GOZI, Brando BENIFEI, Eva MAYDELL, Esteban GONZÁLEZ PONS, Domènec RUIZ DEVESA, Gabriele BISCHOFF, Pascal DURAND, Daniel FREUND, Damian BOESELAGER, Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS, Fabio Massimo CASTALDO.
By the time of the official launch of the Future of Europe Conference, more than 450 high-level personalities had joined the appeal. An overview of the list is available here.
4. EU Survey
A new Special Eurobarometer, published one day before the signing of the Joint Declaration by the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission, focusses on the Conference on the Future of Europe, measuring attitudes towards it and some of the key themes to be covered. This Conference aims to create a new public forum for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with Europeans around the issues that matter to them and affect their everyday lives. The survey, conducted between October and November 2020 by Kantar, has been commissioned jointly by the European Parliament and the European Commission.
Two days ahead of the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Parliament today published the results of its Eurobarometer survey on the future of Europe.
Around eight in ten Europeans (81%) agree that the Conference should prioritise dealing with how the EU could better handle crises such as the coronavirus outbreak, including more than a third (38%) who strongly agree.
Europeans who are willing to get involved in the Conference on the future of Europe would foremost like to do so through meetings in their local area, such as citizens’ debates or assemblies (44%). Citizens could contribute to the Conference’s ideas gathering process by answering a survey (34%), by putting forward ideas and proposals to European and national politicians (31%) and by taking part in online consultations via discussion platforms (30%), those surveyed said.
More than eight in ten Europeans (83%) agree that the Conference should specifically involve young people to foster new ideas, including four in ten (40%) who totally agreed.
5. What’s next?
The Executive Board will soon set the date for the first Conference Plenary meeting. Preparations for the Citizens’ Panels are underway, while the number of participants and events on the Conference’s Multilingual Digital Platform continue to grow. The Conference is committed to give maximum space to young people and in this vein, preparations for the European Youth Event organised by the European Parliament in October also continue.
In the health domain the EU needs more powers and competences and that may necessitate treaty change. That would be important and I am always open to treaty change”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
1. The Citizens’ Platform
After over a year of intra-institutional infighting, lots of fine-tuning, vague goals, a postponed start and yet undecided physical formats, the digital platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe was finally launched on Monday 19 April.
The platform provides a digital space for citizens to interact and exchange ideas on how they see the future of Europe, and directly feeds in the Conference’s panel discussions.
Following a bottom-up approach, the platform will be the central hub of the Conference, bringing together all citizens’ contribution. To allow for a truly pan-European discussion, it will be available in all 24 EU official languages through immediate translation.
In keeping with the inter-institutional nature of the Conference, the platform was launched in a joint press conference with the three co-chairs of the Conference’s Executive Board: Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, MEP Guy Verhofstadt, and Portuguese Secretary of State Ana Paula Zacarias.
The Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt pointed out the symbolic significance of the launch: a day after the 70th anniversary of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the supranational organisation created after World War II that is now considered the embryo of the European Union.
Platform users have to abide by a Conference Charter to ensure a respectful and inclusive exchange of ideas.
As a citizen-led exercise, the platform will be open to all European citizens who are interested in joining an event, exchanging ideas or organising an event to discuss what should be the EU positions on the nine key topics.
The selection of the most relevant ideas discussed on the platform will be powered by artificial intelligence and these ideas will then feed into the citizens’ panel discussions that will be one of the building blocks of the conference.
The European Commission is committed to following up on whatever request might be made by the European citizens, hence not excluding a possible charge of the Treaties. If successful, the online platform might become a permanent public consultation tool.
The interactive platform will stimulate discussion. Regular panels will be regularly organised between citizens, experts, elected representatives and other stakeholders to analyse and reflect on the ideas and recommendations. The main proposals will be then brought to the conference's high body, the plenary, for final consideration.
You can have your say on the future of the European Union here.
UEF has been the first political organization to submit a proposal in the platform.
2. Citizen’s Panels
At the third meeting of the Executive Board, the representatives of the European Parliament, Council of the EU and the European Commission endorsed the Conference’s Rules of Procedure regarding the European citizens' panels, and in relation to the Principles and the Scope of the Conference.
Each panel will comprise 200 citizens and will ensure that at least one female and one male citizen per Member State is included. Citizens will be chosen randomly to set up panels that are representative of the EU’s diversity, in terms of geographic origin, gender, age, socioeconomic background and level of education. Young people between 16 and 25 will make up one-third of each panel.
3. The Conference Launching Event
The event formally launching the Conference on the Future of Europe on Europe Day (9 May) is set to be a ‘hybrid’ of online and physical participation because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It will be broadcasted live, and will feature remote citizen participation.
The Conference launching event will be chaired by the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, because he holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU until 30 June, the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
The grand opening of the Conference on the Future of Europe will feature the French President Emmanuel Macron as the first speaker, as president of the host country of the European Parliament’s Strasbourg seat.
4. Youth Ideas
The Youth Outreach Unit of the European Parliament has built an online platform where you can outline your own ideas on the issues that Europe is facing today and your ideas for the Europe of tomorrow. The aim of the platform is to make it easier for youth to participate actively in the CoFoE.
5. Merkel Open to Treaty Changes
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday 21st April that she would be open to making changes to the EU's founding treaties, particularly in the area of health policy, and urged the bloc to find ways to make its foreign policy more efficient.
"I believe that Europe needs more competencies in the area of health. This will probably also require changes to the treaties," Merkel said at an event organized by the European People's Party, which discussed potential EU reforms that could also come up as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The chancellor also reiterated previous calls for reforming EU treaties in the area of competition policy to facilitate the creation of so-called European champions that can compete with bigger rivals from China or the U.S. Merkel said the EU could also reform the way it makes decisions on certain policies to make the process more efficient, such as by changing the threshold for approval from unanimity to a qualified majority. On foreign policy, Merkel said that “unanimity can also be abandoned on certain issues."
The EU committees of the French National Assembly and the German Bundestag demanded that the plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe, gets the final say over what makes the cut — not its executive board in a joint statement.
6. What’s next?
Following the launch of the multilingual digital platform enabling all European Union (EU) citizens to participate in the Future of Europe Conference, The Commissioner for Democracy and Demography Dubravca Šuica pointed to “awareness raising” as “the next big step”.
“The platform allows citizens to start getting involved now, without further delay. After this morning, we have over 3,000 contributions on the platform, which means it is a good tool in times of pandemic”.
The next meeting of the Executive Board is scheduled to take place on 9 May in Strasbourg. Nevertheless, additional meetings might still be scheduled in the weeks before.
The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is a European Union (EU) initiative aimed at reforming its policies and institutions, following large-scale consultations across the continent. Initially presented by President Emmanuel Macron in March 2019, the proposal was subsequently taken up by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who included it in her vision for the European Commission's (EC) mandate for the 2019-2024 period.
The European Council referred to the Conference in December 2019, stressing that it should be held between 2020-2022 and deliver concrete results to citizens.
In January 2020, the European Parliament adopted its position on the Conference, calling for it to be an open forum without a predetermined outcome and for its recommendations to be turned into actions, including a possible amendment of the EU Treaties.
Also in January 2020, the EC proposed May 9, 2020 as the start date for the Conference and two years as the total duration. The EC concept included two parallel work streams for the CoFoE, one focused on EU priorities in different areas such as climate change, the economy, equality, digitalization, European values, the EU's global role and democratic foundations; while the second related to democratic and institutional processes, such as the system of leading candidates (known as Spitzenkandidaten) or transnational lists for European elections.
In June 2020, the EU Council adopted its position on the Conference, calling for an inclusive process, but stating that its results should not necessarily imply changing the Treaties.
2. Current Status
After an initial deadlock due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing public health crisis, the Conference suffered another major hurdle: the appointment of the Conference President. This was because the Council rejected the candidacy of the federalist MEP and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, proposed by the European Parliament, without offering any alternative. For several months under the German Presidency of the Council of the EU (July-December 2020), the message coming from the institutions was that a Joint Declaration - a document defining the objectives, scope, structure and timing of the Conference - was almost ready and that only agreement on the leadership of the Presidency was needed for the CoFoE to get underway.
However, it was not until February 3 of this year, during the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council (January-June 2021), that EU ambassadors reiterated the Council's previous position, but this time calling for an imminent launch of the CoFoE. They proposed, on the other hand, a joint presidency of the EP, EC and Council presidents.
Finally, the presidents of the EP, the EC and the Council adopted a Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe on March 4. The Joint Declaration was signed by the three institutions on March 10, 2021.
With this Declaration, the CoFoE will be officially launched on May 9, Europe Day, and will end, in theory, in the spring of 2022 with the French Presidency of the Council of the EU (January-June 2022). The objectives, principles, governance and methodology of the Conference are described in the Joint Declaration.
3. What will the Conference consist of and where will it take place?
The CoFoE will not consist of a single Conference or event, but of a series of physical and digital meetings, panels and debates involving European citizens.
Both physical and online events may be organized at different transnational, national and regional levels. At the European level, the institutions will be in charge of organizing the citizens' panels, which will be broadcast. All events will be conducted in collaboration with civil society and stakeholders.
4. The digital platform
In addition, all contributions from the events will be collected, discussed and published on a multilingual digital platform that will be officially launched on April 19. The platform will allow European citizens to contribute with their views on any topic they consider important for the future of the EU. According to the European Commission, the platform has been developed with the threat of disinformation in mind and will be monitored by a team of moderators. Thus, the platform will allow citizens to put forward their ideas and also to comment on those of others, as well as to create and participate in events. Citizens will need to sign up to a charter of EU values and principles in an effort to avoid hate speech and disinformation on the site. The proposals will be discussed at the Conference Plenary, composed of representatives of EU institutions, national parliaments and citizens.
5. Which citizens will be able to participate?
Any citizen will be able to take part in the events. The Declaration ensures that there will be an equitable distribution of representatives in terms of several factors: geography, gender, age, socioeconomic background and/or level of education. In addition, young people will play an essential role through events especially dedicated to them, as the role of this sector of the population is essential for the lasting impact of the Conference.
6. Who will chair the Conference?
The Conference has a triple joint presidency, composed of the Presidents of the EC, the EP and the rotating Presidency of the Council, namely Ursula von der LEYEN, David SASSOLI and Antonio COSTA.
The Executive Board, which will take decisions by consensus and will be assisted by a Joint Secretariat, will oversee the work of the Conference and prepare the plenary meetings of the Conference, including the follow-up of citizens' contributions. The President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the political groups approved on 17 March the composition of this board: first of all, Guy VERHOFSTADT (Renew Europe, BE), Manfred WEBER (EPP, DE) and Iratxe GARCÍA PÉREZ (S&D, ES). The following MEPs will have observer roles: Gerolf ANNEMANS (ID, BE), Daniel FREUND (Greens/EFA, DE), Zdzisław KRASNODĘBSKI (ECR, PL) and Helmut SCHOLZ (The Left, DE).
The Joint Secretariat is composed of Ana Paula ZACARIAS, representing the Council, Commissioner Dubravka ŠUICA, representing the Commission and MEP Guy VERHOFSTADT representing the Parliament.
The Plenary Assembly of the Conference, whose composition is not yet known, will meet every six months to ensure that citizens' proposals are discussed in the forum.
7. What topics will be discussed?
Proposed areas of discussion include:
- Building a healthy continent.
- The fight against climate change and environmental challenges,
- An economy that works for people, social justice, equality and intergenerational solidarity,
- Digital transformation,
- Rights and values, including the rule of law,
- The role of the EU in the world,
- The democratic foundations of the Union,
- The strengthening of the democratic processes governing the EU,
- Possible cross-cutting issues related to better regulation, application of subsidiarity and proportionality, implementation and enforcement of the acquis and transparency.
- In addition, citizens will be free to raise additional issues beyond these proposals, as long as they are on areas where the EU has the capacity to act or where action would have benefits for European citizens.
Given this last statement in the Joint Declaration, we are faced with the question of the reform of the Treaties. Reform of the Treaties yes or reform of the Treaties no? It is difficult to say for sure at this stage. While the EP has clearly opted for this, the Council has been more than reticent on this issue and the EC has not expressed itself in any way. The Council's initial position made it clear that this was not a possibility at all. However, in the final Declaration there is no mention of this condition, which was previously sine qua non for the Council to approve the launching of the Conference, nor is there any explicit veto of this idea. Moreover, it seems that the statement that "citizens will be free to raise additional issues" reflects that the door is open.
8. What happens after the Conference and what can we expect from the results obtained?
The Plenary will prepare a series of recommendations for the EU to follow up the Conference. The Presidents of the EP, the Council and the EC have committed themselves to follow up the recommendations of the Conference within their competences and respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
- JOINT PR: Conference on the Future of Europe: launch of the multilingual digital platform
- JOINT PR: Conference on the Future of Europe: preparations continue
- EU committees of the French National Assembly and the German Bundestag:
- Conference on the Future of Europe: Political process with strong involvement of the citizens
- EP group leaders’ statement on the Conference on the Future of Europe
- EESC JOINT PR: A New Narrative for Europe
- Speech by the President: Conference on the Future of Europe (europa.eu)
- 20210310_speech_prime-minister_en.pdf (2021portugal.eu)
- Ceremony for the signing of the joint declaration on the Conference on the future of Europe | The President | European Parliament (europa.eu)
- Joint Declaration on the Conference of the Future of Europe
- Work begins on the Conference on the Future of Europe
- Joint PR: Conference on the Future of Europe: launch of the citizens’ platform on 19 April
Research and academic papers:
- FRIENDS OF EUROPE: Has Europe lost the fight for truth?
- CEPS: The Conference on the Future of Europe: what to expect?
- BRUEGEL: Do citizens care about Europe? More than they used to
- Berlin e-Working Papers on European Law
- Frank Hoffmeister - Episkey! Plädoyer für einen ausgewogenen Übergang zu Mehrheitsentscheidungen im Rat der Europäischen Union in ausgewählten Politikbereichen
- Berlin e-Working Papers on European Law:
- Christian Calliess - Die Gesundheitspolitik der EU in der Corona Krise (Covid-19-Pandemie) – Reformüberlegungen mit Blick auf die Konferenz zur Zukunft Europas
- EU-wide survey shows Europeans support the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe
- FRIENDS OF EUROPE: The Conference on the Future of Europe: are we there yet?
- EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESEARCH SERVICE: Transnational Electoral Lists: Ways To Europeanise Elections To The European Parliament
- GERMAN INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL AND SECURITY AFFAIRS: The Conference on the Future of Europe - Obstacles and Opportunities to a European Reform Initiative That Goes beyond Crisis Management