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The Conference on the Future of Europe launched, but must keep promise of citizens' focus

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The Conference on the Future of Europe launched, but must keep promise of citizens' focus

11-05-2021

The long-awaited the Conference on the Future of Europe officially launched in Strasbourg on Sunday, 9th May 2021. The EU institutions have promised citizens and civil society a Conference that it will be an innovative and historic exercise in European citizens' participation. By means of randomly-selected European citizens’ panels and a multilingual digital platform, the Conference is designed to reach out to every corner and offer every citizen a voice by creating new opportunities to contribute ideas that will shape our common future. After years of crises and a long need for democratic reform of the EU, Democracy International, together with the civil society alliance Citizens Take Over Europe, strongly support these efforts. 

We express concern that the current approach and design of the Conference fails to match fundamental principles that are needed for a truly citizen centered Conference on the future of Europe. We see troubling weaknesses, in three particular respects:

Inclusivity

Democracy International and Citizens Take Over Europe believes that in order for the Conference on the Future of Europe to be centred on citizens, marginalised people, including residents, should be included. The EU institutions should actively ensure that all marginalised communities are adequately represented in the European citizens’ panels and that they have a voice in the Conference process more broadly. They should also be consulted on the organisation of the citizens’ panels and other components of the Conference.

Deliberation

The quality of deliberation is key to a successful Conference. Therefore, the digital platform of the Conference, the citizens' panels and the plenary should maximise opportunities for meaningful dialogue and deliberation among citizens and between citizens and politicians. Given that the Conference agenda sets out nine comprehensive policy areas, there is a startling mismatch with the provision of only four citizens' panels. Nine transnational citizens' panels will be needed, equipped with the necessary infrastructure to seriously reflect the multiplicity of challenges to the EU, to meaningfully interact with national, regional, and local citizens' panels and to effectively engage with the plenary and EU decision-makers. 

Effectiveness

Democracy International recognizes the Conference on the Future of Europe a necessary, ambitious, and complex democratic innovation. To be successful, the Conference must be effective, and therefore also accountable in its follow up. We therefore propose the creation of a Forum of independent and credible observers. A European Civil Society Forum should be set up to include academia and civil society in order to monitor and support the Conference’s proceedings, its participatory, transnational, transparent, and deliberative quality, its visibility and accountability, and, once the Conference has concluded, the follow-up by the EU institutions on the Conference's recommendations.

We consider that the Conference is the start of a multi-year process of European democratic review and reform. The Conference should therefore use its unique opportunity with citizens' participation to review the extent of democratic reform that can take place under the current Treaties, and, if necessary, propose suggestions for Treaty amendments. If the Conference agrees in its final outcomes, it should be able to recommend to the EU institutions to launch an official Convention, according to Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty, which, like our demands for the Conference, is democratic, transparent, and inclusive. As a final step, Democracy International supports an EU wide referendum on the final outcomes of an EU Convention. 

 

Further information:

European Parliament Press Release on the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe

Citizens Take Over Europe

 

For questions, please contact:

Daniela Vancic

vancic@democracy-international.org

+49 221 66966531

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