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Conference on the Future of Europe

Input and Recommendations from the European Movement International’s network of organisations

The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is a very good opportunity to debate some of the most crucial issues of our times.

After years of being in a crisis-management mode, we need to take stock and think hard about what kind of Union we need.

The millions of Europeans that cast their vote at the EP elections in May are keen to see what the EU plans to do to address the daily challenges they face.

Without wanting to diverge from the EU’s strategic plan as outlined by the Council and the new Commission, the Conference is an opportunity to broaden the debate and invite a wider perspective.

1. The aim

  • The Conference should focus on how to achieve a more effective and democratic European Union that delivers for its citizens.
  • The Conference should be an extrovert, open, transparent exercise; inclusive and innovative.
  • It should build on work done by the Commission, the European Parliament, National Governments and civil society through citizens debates, consultations and ECIs and grassroots initiatives.
  • It should not duplicate or replace existing legislative and policy-making processes, but it should complement them.
  • The Conference should reinforce European democracy by paving the way for a comprehensive electoral law reform.
  • The conference should aim to strengthen parliamentarianism and representative democracy at the European level and at the same time engage citizens and provide them with an avenue to have their voice heard.

2. The structure

  • The European Parliament, as the only EU institution directly elected by the citizens, should be at the core of the process of organising the Conference, supported by the European Commission and the Council and with the participation of representatives of the EESC and the Committee of Regions,
  • Other EU institutions and Agencies, like the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the European Central Bank, Eurojust as well as the Ombudsman and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office could contribute in those thematic discussions where their expertise can be of particular use.
  • National Governments and National Parliaments should also have a strong role both by being represented in the Conference but by also bringing the conference to the national level.
  • Regional and local authorities, who often operate closest to the citizens, must be equally engaged to ensure the success of the Conference.
  • Organised civil society should be intimately involved in the preparation, delivery and follow up of the Conference. The networks, know-how and expertise the biggest civil society networks can bring to the Conference are invaluable.
  • By utilising the influence civil society networks have in their respective constituencies we can reach a wider audience. At a time when influence does not depend just on authority but also on trust, we need to utilise these trusted messengers if we want to go beyond our silos.
  • The civil society networks that will take part in the conference should possess democratic structures and encompass organisations that represent the whole spectrum of society, including NGOs, youth organisations, the environmental movement, social partners, business, academia, local authorities and the media,.

3. The role of citizens

  • The conference should give citizens from all walks of life, at European, national and local level, a platform to discuss the future of Europe and the future institutional framework of the EU.
  • As it should be the case with any form of citizens’ consultations, the role of citizens must be organised in a structured and inclusive manner.
  • The conference must ensure the wide participation and deep deliberation with citizens and civil society and gather a diverse and balanced group of citizens that represents European society today.
  • The conference should be opened to non-EU Member States such as the Western Balkan countries and candidate countries.

4. The issues

  • Citizen participation and electoral reform, transparency of the decision-making process and the strengthening of the European Parliament;
  • The “Spitzenkandidaten” process and the establishment of transnational lists in view of the European elections in 2024;
  • The creation of an effective system for the defence of human rights and the rule of law in the EU;
  • The environmental challenges and climate crisis, as the EU must urgently make environmental protection and climate action its top priorities;
  • The implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights as a vital instrument to achieve social justice and equality in the EU;
  • Migration not as a threat but as a challenge that Europe cannot ignore, one that can offer opportunities for a continent characterised by demographic decline and with labour markets in need of workers;
  • The development of a fully-fledged European Defence Union (EDU);
  • The enlargement process;
  • The deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

5. The follow-up

  • In order to boost citizens’ trust in the EU the intended follow-up of the Conference must be communicated from the beginning.
  • The proposals that will emerge need to be turned into constructive reforms in a transparent manner and developed into tools for effective policymaking.
  • The three EU Institutions must work together to turn the proposals into legislative proposals, and, if need be, propose the treaty changes necessary to implement them.
  • If the conference results in a clear position for treaty changes, these should be implemented through the existing procedures (cf. Convention method according to Art. 48 EU Treaty).
  • Any reforms that will come out of the conference must be built on a broad consensus among the EU institutions and with the greatest possible buy-in from European citizens.
  • The European Parliament should be at the centre of this process and must be endowed with a right of initiative