Brussels, 17 June 2022
The European Commission has today adopted a Communication setting out how it can follow up on the outcome of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
After a year of deliberations, the Conference came to an end on 9 May 2022. In the closing ceremony in Strasbourg, the Presidents of the European Parliament, Commission and Council received a final report from the Conference participants containing 49 wide-ranging, ambitious and forward-looking proposals and 326 individual measures.
These proposals, covering nine broad themes, were based on recommendations made by citizens during the European Citizens’ Panels and the National Citizens’ Panels, and who contributed their ideas through the Multilingual Digital Platform.
While the Conference has delivered in both quantity and quality of proposals, its success will ultimately hinge on the change that it can deliver. In this spirit, the European Commission, along with both the European Parliament and Council, all committed in the Joint Declaration of March 2021 to following up on what was proposed – each within the framework of their competences and in accordance with the Treaties. Presidentvon der Leyenrepeated this commitment at the Conference closing ceremony.
Today’s Communication is the first step in the Commission’s follow-up. It offers an assessment of what is needed to follow up on the Conference’s proposals, gives an overview of the next steps and sets out how best to learn the lessons from the Conference and embed participative democracy into the EU’s policy and law-making. For instance, building on the success of the European Citizens’ Panels in the Conference, the Commission will enable these panels to deliberate and make recommendations ahead of certain key proposals, as part of its wider policy making and in line with Better Regulation principles.
President Ursula von der Leyen said:
“European citizens have given us rich and wide-ranging ideas to improve our Union: 49 detailed proposals and more than 300 measures to make everyday life better. To build a better future. We promised to follow up. Today’s Communication is the first step in doing so. I will always stand by those who want to reform our Union for the better.”
Analysis of proposals and next steps
The Commission believes that for the assessment of the proposals to be credible, it is essential to stick to the spirit and the letter of what is proposed – without any re-interpretation or selection. This is what is set out in the annex to this Communication. The 49 proposals are divided up into the same thematic areas chosen by the Conference, with the Commission’s assessment set out under each area.
The annex sets out four categories of responses: existing initiatives that address the proposals (e.g. the European Climate Law); those already proposed by the Commission where the European Parliament and the Council are called upon to adopt (e.g. the New Pact on Migration); planned actions which will deliver on the ideas, building in new reflections from the Conference (e.g. the Media Freedom Act); and new initiatives or areas of work inspired by the proposals, falling within the remit of the Commission (e.g. issues related to mental health).
The first set of new proposals will be announced in Presidentvon der Leyen’sState of the Union address in September 2022, as well as in the accompanying Letter of Intent. These proposals will be amongst those to be included in the 2023 Commission work programme and beyond. In following up, the Commission will ensure that new reforms and policies are not mutually exclusive to discussions on the need for Treaty change, focusing on making the most of what is currently possible, while being open to Treaty change where that will be necessary.
To keep the citizens who have participated in the Conference informed, and to keep up the momentum, a Conference feedback event will be organised in autumn 2022. This event would be the moment for communicating and explaining how the three EU institutions are following up and taking stock of progress at that stage of the process.
Members of the College said:
Vice-President Dubravka Šuica:
“The success of the Conference on the Future of Europe is a result of the dedication, engagement and rigour of all the citizens involved. They have articulated their vision of the future and have entrusted us with its delivery.”
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič:
“People from right across Europe put huge energy and effort into agreeing these 49 proposals. I witnessed this first-hand, particularly in the area of health. It is now for us in the EU institutions to put that same energy and effort into responding to their calls. By feeding the outcomes of the Conference into the 2023 Commission Work Programme, we can demonstrate clearly to citizens that not only have we listened to them, we have heard them.”
Vice-President Věra Jourová:
“The Conference on the Future of Europe created momentum to listen more attentively to the people of Europe. Now we must bring forth tangible results. Today‘s Communication is the first step on the path to delivery and provides for concrete follow-up to the recommendations presented by citizens.”
Presidentvon der Leyencalled for a Conference on the Future of Europe in her Political Guidelines of July 2019, as part of a vision for a new push for European democracy – and committed to following up on its results.
The Conference on the Future of Europe, which kicked off on Europe Day 2021, ran for one year. It was an unprecedented pan-European exercise in deliberative democracy – the largest and broadest of its kind. It connected people from all ages, countries and backgrounds, many of whom had never engaged with Europe or were not familiar with the European Union’s institutional make-up. They all brought their different stories and perspectives, their different languages and identities to set out their expectations of Europe and to weave together a vision of its future.
The proposals made by the Conference include 326 measures for the EU institutions and Member States to follow up on under nine topics: climate change and the environment; health; a stronger economy, social justice and jobs; EU in the world; values and rights, rule of law, security; digital transformation; European democracy; migration; education, culture, youth and sport.
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S&D Group: Now the Commission is on board for EU Treaty change, the ball is in Council’s court
The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament today welcome the European Commission’s support for a Convention on EU Treaty reform to deliver the joint promises made to citizens in the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Before Treaty change takes place, socialists and democrats are urging President von der Leyen to use her State of the Union Speech in September to outline how the Commission will act within the current Treaties to respond to citizens’ demands in the Conference in areas like climate, social justice and democracy.
The Conference was a successful exercise that proved citizens bring added value to policymaking and we support a greater role for citizens taking part in developing EU laws.
Gaby Bischoff, Vice President of the European Parliament, said:
“As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, we committed to changing the EU and giving the Union more capacity to improve people’s everyday lives. In the face of global health emergencies and illegal attacks on European soil like in Ukraine, it is all the more important that we deliver. With the Commission on board, the ball is now in the Council’s court.
“Of course, there is scope for change within the current Treaty framework. However, where Treaty change is necessary, we have to be bold. Parliament has already set out specific amendments including giving the EU competence over cross-border health policy and adding social progress as an irreversible aim in the EU in a new, dedicated Protocol. Moreover, by removing unanimity from the decision-making process, we can finally stop the EU from being held hostage by the usual suspects over progressive tax reform or sanctions.
“The Conference was a unique democratic process, but it should not be a one-off. We need more regular citizens’ consultations as part of our law making, but we have to ensure that those selected to take part in future citizens panels fully reflect our societies when it comes to age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.
“As we edge towards the 2024 elections, it is reassuring that Ursula von der Leyen supports reforming European electoral law and is committed to making sure her successor is appointed by means of a European campaign through the European Parliament elections. On this point, we will be sure to hold the President to her word
Note to editors
Throughout the Conference on the Future of Europe, the S&D Group has been engaging with citizens through the #Progressives4Europe initiative, a multi-lingual debating platform that allows citizens to post their opinions and share their views on the future of Europe.
ECR Group: Commission proposals on future of EU unwise
17 June 2022
The ECR Group has criticised the Commissions’ roadmap on a follow up on the Conference on the future of Europe presented by Vice-Presidents Dubravka Šuica, Věra Jourová, and Maroš Šefčovič today. The proposals are based on recommendations made during the European Citizens’ Panels, the National Citizens’ Panels and the Multilingual Digital Platform of the Conference.
“It is unwise that the Commission, which is supposed to be the guardian of the Treaties, overlooks the many weaknesses of this conference. The Conference was aimed at undermining the very structure of the European Union.”, ECR Co-Chairman Ryszard Legutko (Poland) commented.
“It should be clear to all concerned that the report is nothing more than a hodgepodge of proposals from randomly selected citizens and activists that are not in any way representative of the diversity of opinions held by the people of Europe”, fellow ECR Co-Chairman Raffaele Fitto (Italy) added.
Earlier, the ECR Group had highlighted the serious shortcomings of the Conference in terms of participation opportunities, legitimacy and transparency, for example in the formulation of conclusions, but also in financial terms. The Conservatives and Reformists therefore walked out of the conference in protest at the end of April. According to the Conservative MEPs, the agenda of giving Brussels more powers was ruthlessly enforced by the organisers, including a biased selection of citizen representatives and experts.
“The Commission is taking up the proposal to add participatory elements to our tried and tested representative democracy, on which our communities are based. This opens the door to activism of all kinds”, Prof Legutko said.
“Harmful, short-term or ideological thinking could become the norm, giving way to a politics based purely on mood and sentiment. The legitimacy of political decisions as a whole would then be endangered”, Mr Fitto concluded.
The ECR Group now hopes that the proposals of the Parliament and the Commission will be brought back down to earth by the Council. Its criticism goes against calls for further centralisation and deeper integration, moving from unanimity to qualified majority voting in more areas, and building a European defence system independent of NATO structures.
Source – ECR (via e-mail)