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The 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 must be an opportunity to create a genuine dialogue between citizens and institutions on the future of the EU and the big challenges of our time.

After years of being in crisis-management mode, we need to take stock and think hard about what kind of Union we want and establish together how to pave the way for a stronger and better, value-based Europe.

Due to the pandemic, citizens have been resetting their priorities and rethinking their way of life with focus on sustainability, inclusivity and wellbeing. Citizens should therefore play an active part in the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Europe needs to take the reins and deliver on issues that lie at the heart of citizens’ interests at economic, social, health and security level – at the European, national, and local level, and beyond its borders. In view of the challenges the EU currently faces, the need to advance European integration has become more pertinent than ever.

Building on the proposals of the European Commission, European Parliament, and Council, the European Movement International is putting forward a set of concrete proposals and guidelines that can make the Conference a successful and results-oriented exercise that strengthens European democracy and makes the active involvement of citizens an integral part of the Conference.

The aim

  1. The Conference should focus on how to achieve a more effective and democratic European Union that delivers for its citizens.
  2. Putting citizens at the heart of the process, the Conference must ensure the true and genuine involvement of organised civil society, Social Partners, and local and regional governments.
  3. The Conference should be a two-year, extrovert, open, transparent, inclusive, results-based, and innovative exercise, building on the work done by the Commission, the European Parliament, national governments, civil society, Social Partners, and local and regional governments, through citizens debates, consultations, European Citizens’ Initiatives and grassroots initiatives, including the interest of employees and employers.
  4. This exercise cannot just duplicate or replace existing legislative and policy-making processes but needs to complement them by offering a tool for true accountable citizen participation and dialogue with the institutions.
  5. The Conference should reinforce European democracy and pave the way for a comprehensive electoral law reform.
  6. The Conference should aim to strengthen parliamentarianism and representative democracy at the European level, at the same time engaging citizens and providing them with an avenue to have their voice heard.
  7. The Conference should not be morphed into the prequel of a “Convention”, in which the representation is limited to Member State governments and European institutions.

The structure

  1. 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, with a strong representation of all the political groups of the European Parliament and national parliaments. The Conference needs to be supported by the European Commission and the Council and with the participation of representatives of the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions.
  2. 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 to those thematic discussions where their expertise can be of use.
  3. National Governments and National Parliaments should also have a strong role both by being represented in the Conference and by bringing the Conference to the national level.
  4. Regional and local governments, who often operate closest to the citizens, must be equally engaged to ensure the success of the Conference.
  5. Organised civil society and Social Partners should be intimately involved in the governance, delivery and follow-up of the Conference, as equal partners of the institutions. The networks and know-how that the biggest representative networks can bring to the Conference are invaluable.
  6. The European Parliament, in particular the AFCO Committee, should stand up for the involvement of civil society, Social Partners, and democratic associations in the Conference, as facilitators of the process.
  7. By utilising the influence of civil society networks, Social Partners, and local and regional governments, in their respective constituencies, the Conference 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.
  8. A balanced composition between institutional actors, civil society representatives, Social Partners, and local and regional governments, is crucial. Moreover, the representative civil society networks that 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 and regional governments, and the media.
  9. The Conference should encourage transnational initiatives that aim to involve citizens from all over Europe and feed into the deliberations of the Conference.

The role of citizens

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Conference must ensure the wide participation and deep deliberation with citizens, civil society organisations, Social Partners, and local and regional governments, and gather a diverse and balanced group of citizens that represents European society today.
  4. Since this is the Conference on the Future of Europe, it is vital to invite contributions from representatives of European countries which are not members of the EU, and especially of all candidate countries from the Western Balkans, and design an adequate form of formal participation of representatives, including civil society organisations.
  5. Civil society organisations, Social Partners, and local and regional governments should be the constant voice of citizens throughout the Conference, amplifying their priorities, views, and demands.
  6. Young people and youth organisations must have a special role in the Conference, but not in separate agoras.

The issues

The Conference needs to place trans-European issues at the top of its agenda and avoid nationally driven agendas. While allowing for a broad scope, including proposals for treaty changes, the Conference must remain open and flexible to emerging challenges, such as the current health and economic, and security crises, rising inequalities and the climate crisis.

Key issues that should be addressed by the Conference:

Democracy, citizen participation, rights, and fundamental values

  1. The EU’s capacity to deliver in the areas where responsibilities have been conferred upon the EU, which should not be compromised by unanimity requirement that allows a single member of the Council to veto any action by the EU in that area. Therefore, the Conference should consider the question of shifting from unanimity to qualified majority voting in the Council for further policy areas, including for foreign and security policy.
  2. Citizen participation and electoral reform, transparency, effectiveness of the decision-making process, and the strengthening of the European Parliament and principles of parliamentary democracy;
  3. The “Spitzenkandidaten” process and the establishment of transnational lists well in time for the European elections in 2024, to strengthen the European dimension of the elections;
  4. The creation of an effective system for the defence of human rights and the rule of law in the EU;
  5. European health policy and the EU’s response to the current and futures pandemics;
  6. Promoting the quality of life and wellbeing of citizens and their communities by enhancing their rights, equality and social inclusion, and by supporting in particular vulnerable and under-represented groups, and especially in times of crisis;

A social, sustainable, creative and prosperous Europe

  1. The environmental challenges and climate crisis, as the EU must maintain environmental protection as a priority and ensure the full implementation of the objectives of the European Green Deal;
  2. The implementation of the Social Partnership and the European Pillar of Social Rights, as vital instruments to achieve social justice and equality in the EU, and to have an open discussion on the EU’s economic governance, coherent with social sustainability; Guaranteeing social progress and rights through a Social Progress Protocol and a renewed Social Contract for Europe;
  3. The deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), to ensure consistency with the priorities of the EU and further; concrete steps towards a genuine Fiscal Union;
  4. The full integration of the vital cultural dimension in all policies of the EU, recognising, among others, the huge value and potential of our shared culture and cultural heritage to strengthen the sense of togetherness and the sense of belonging to a wider European family;
  5. A youth policy that fosters the civic, social, economic, cultural and political participation of young people in Europe;
  6. The role of education and skills on the green and digital transition, as well as in achieving a more integrated and fairer European Union.

Europe’s role in the world

  1. Europe’s ability to promote peace, security, and stability within and beyond its borders, based on democratic structures and the rule of law;
  2. Europe’s structural capability and flexibility for forging optimum relationships between EU Member States and with other major regional powers, including the USA, China and the UK;
  3. The need to ensure a value-based EU trade policy and strengthened international ties, supporting the multilateral system, with open and transparent trade negotiations, and binding and enforceable sustainable development provisions;
  4. Migration, as a challenge that Europe cannot ignore and that can offer opportunities for a continent characterised by demographic decline and with labour markets in need of workers;
  5. The strengthening of a value-driven enlargement process, with due involvement of civil society organisations, to enhance citizens’ trust in the process;
  6. Strengthening the political, social and economic relations, ties and cooperation with the Southern Neighbourhood and Eastern Partnership countries, to enhance the regions’ stability and peace, and to promote democracy and the rule of law outside of European borders;
  7. The development of a fully-fledged European Defence Union (EDU) including the social and human dimension;

The follow-up

  1. In order to boost citizens’ trust in the EU, the intended follow-up of the Conference must be linked to their input in a transparent manner and communicated from the start. The outcome needs to receive a proper and reasoned response from all institutions in the immediate aftermath of the Conference.
  2. The outcome of the Conference should be result-oriented and discussed in open and inclusive formats, including through digital tools.
  3. The proposals that will emerge need to be turned into constructive reforms in a transparent manner and developed into tools for effective policy-making.
  4. The three EU Institutions should commit themselves to turning the suggestions into legislative proposals while remaining open to potential treaty revisions. All efforts must be made to facilitate the correct information of the largest public opinion on the issues at stake.
  5. Any resulting treaty changes must ensure the improvement of the democratic functioning of the EU. That could include the abolition of the veto and the consequent shifting from unanimity to qualified majority voting in the Council of several policy areas.
  6. Any reforms that will come out of the Conference must be built on broad consensus among the EU institutions and with the greatest possible buy-in from European citizens.
  7. The European Parliament should be at the centre of this process and have a stronger right of initiative.

For a comprehensive list of our policy recommendations put together by our Political Committees which gather member organisations from across society and all over Europe, see here.

Published in March 2021

The Conference on the Future of Europe

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