“Make sure your voice is heard. Never wait for somebody else to talk for you. You have a voice that can be as loud and the integrity of your argument can matter.” – Roberta Metsola, EP President
THE TIME IS NOW, UEF’s fortnightly newsletter on the Conference on the Future of Europe!
Learn more about the Conference’s latest news and activities related to rebuilding the EU!
PANEL RECOMMENDATIONS ON EU IN THE WORLD AND MIGRATION
The final meeting of the fourth European Citizens’ Panel took place on 11-13 February 2022 in Maastricht, the Netherlands.
On Sunday, the European Citizens’ Panel on ‘EU in the world / Migration’ voted through its 40 recommendations for the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). The Panel worked around five work streams: self-reliance and stability; the EU as an international partner; a strong EU in a peaceful world; migration from a human perspective; and responsibility and solidarity across the EU. The Panellists’ recommendations stem from their previous work carried out during two sessions, held in Strasbourg on 15-17 October 2021 and online on 26-28 November.
The third and final meeting of the Panel, comprising around 200 people of different ages and backgrounds, from all Member States, was hosted by the European Institute of Public Administration in Maastricht and Studio Europa Maastricht.
After exchanging views on all aspects of migration, panellists recommended measures to address its causes and regulate it in a humanitarian way, to better integrate refugees and to share responsibilities among all EU countries.
Participants noted that migration is not necessarily a problem. They proposed giving access to the European labour market to asylum seekers with relevant qualifications and improving conditions for workers migrating within the EU.
Inequalities along external EU borders were also highlighted. To address that, participants recommended that the European border agency Frontex is reinforced and made more transparent.
The EU in the world
The EU’s dependence on imports of strategic goods, such as medicines, semiconductors, energy and food, was a major concern. The panel recommended better support for local production and increasing the output of renewable energy in order to reduce dependency “to the largest possible extent”.
It also proposed that most decisions in the field of foreign affairs be taken by qualified majority instead of unanimity to speed up responses to crises and to consolidate the EU’s presence in the world through a united front.
The EU should also apply restrictions to imports from countries that don’t comply with ethical or environmental criteria and promote values like human rights and democracy abroad, panellists recommended.
METSOLA: “MAKE SURE YOUR VOICE IS HEARD”
Parliament President Roberta Metsola answered questions live on social media about health, climate change and inequality
Engaging young people in the future of the EU
As only the third woman to lead the European Parliament, President Metsola said she is grateful to the women who came before her for breaking barriers. Her advice to young girls is: “Make sure your voice is heard. Never wait for somebody else to talk for you. You have a voice that can be as loud and the integrity of your argument can matter.”
She invited young people to express their ideas on Europe by participating in the CoFoE. “Send your messages, we will listen to them. It’s our responsibility, because in 2024 I need to convince [everyone], together with my colleagues here, that this place is worth keeping, because we are working for you,” she said, referring to the European elections.
Strengthening Parliament’s role in the EU
Metsola said Parliament has a “golden opportunity” to transform into a modern, effective and efficient institution and to draw lessons from the pandemic. She stressed Parliament wants the power to propose new laws, because Europeans want it to do more as the only directly-elected EU institution. “Let’s make sure we don’t hide behind political inability or unwillingness by saying there is no solution.”
MATTARELLA AND THE FUTURE OF EUROPE
President Sergio Mattarella, who was just re-elected for a second mandate, pro-European sentiments have recently been witnessed during a ceremony on the island of Ventotene in August where: he paid homage to the grave of Altiero Spinelli (co-author of the Ventotene Manifesto), who was in confinement on the island during the fascist regime.
Mattarella also endorsed the CoFoE. This deliberative democracy experiment “cannot be a grey passage with no historical vision, but must be an opportunity to define, with courage, a Union that is a protagonist in the international community,” the president said.
THE MAASTRICHT TREATY ANNIVERSARY
In 1984, the European Parliament adopted the draft of a European Constitution, which could still solve problems the EU faces today: nearly completely abolishing national vetoes, deciding the EU budget by Parliament and Council together, the EU court checking member states on questions of human rights and the rule of law, health and other societal policies to be a shared competence between EU and member states.
This courageous move 38 years ago is a wake-up call to pro-Europeans while the CoFoE is entering into its decision-making phase.
On 14 February, UEF, the Spinelli Group, JEF Europe and Movimento Europeo Italia organised an event to commemorate the Spinelli Draft Treaty’s approval by the European Parliament in 1984. We counted with current MEPs and renowned witnesses to explain the key features of the so-called Spinelli Project and how it can still inspire the future of Europe today.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DELEGATION TO THE COFOE
On 9 February, the parliamentary delegations to CoFoE had their first joint debate, focusing on European democracy and EU decision-making.
The European Parliament hosted the first joint meeting of EU and national parliamentarians participating in the CoFoE. The purpose of the meeting is to foster closer collaboration between MEPs and MPs, and to take stock of the recent Conference Plenary session that considered the recommendations from two European Citizens’ Panels and National Panels.
Strengthening European democracy
The first part of the meeting, chaired by Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade of the French National Assembly, focused on the legislative powers and democratic control exercised by parliaments, European elections, and EU decision-making. Most speakers agreed that, as the directly elected representatives of European citizens at national and EU level, MEPs and MPs share a responsibility to safeguard all democratic processes within the EU. Many spoke of the need to draw lessons from the application of the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties, and to reform the EU to deal with challenges old and new.
In this vein, many supported Parliament’s call for a full right of legislative initiative. Others focused on the opportunity to establish transnational lists in European elections, debated proposals to directly elect the President of the Commission, and spoke on reforming the institutional roles of the Council and the Commission. Moving away from unanimity in the Council was proposed by many MEPs and MPs alike, as well as enhancing the role of national parliaments in the EU legislative process – with ideas for a revamped “green/yellow/red card” system for subsidiarity checks. Transparency in EU decision-making was another key point, with some speakers stating that citizens need to be able to know who among EU and member states’ institutions decides what. A few speakers took the floor to argue that the EU’s competences should be rolled back, calling for less European integration.
The EU’s role in the world and economic priorities
The second item on the agenda (chaired by Jean-François Rapin from the French Senate) included a debate on the EU Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy, and on economic governance and the EU budget. Speakers focused on a broad range of issues. However, the common denominator for most of them was the need to tackle challenges posed by third countries, whether close to the EU’s border or in the international scene, through more efficient decision-making and effective coordinated action. Ideas brought to the table include moving away from unanimity in the Council, closer and more long-term alignment of economic and industrial policies, fostering strategic autonomy across multiple key sectors, and reviewing the role of the High Representative of the Union.
Citizens’ participation in democratic processes
The final debate, chaired by Parliament’s Co-Chair of the Executive Board of the Conference Guy Verhofstadt, was on the introduction of a permanent EU mechanism for citizens’ participation and consultation. Speakers took the floor to discuss lessons from the CoFoE’s structures and ideas like establishing a permanent online agora for EU citizens, a periodic consultation mechanism, and an obligatory “jury duty”-style call for citizens to engage in an EU-wide consultation process. Some speakers debated the appropriate balance between participatory processes and democratic representation.
One of the four European Citizens’ Panel has yet to hold its final meeting, at the end of this month: the Panel on ‘A stronger economy, social justice and jobs / Education, culture, youth, sport / Digital transformation’ will adopt its recommendations on 25-27 February in Dublin, Ireland.
Eighty Panel representatives (20 from each of the four Panels, of which at least one-third is aged between 16 and 25 years) have been tasked with presenting and debating the recommendations of all Panels at the Conference Plenary, where the CoFoE’s final proposals will be shaped. The next Conference Plenary is set to take place 11-12 March in Strasbourg.
There will therefore be four plenaries (two in March, and two in April, all in Strasbourg), as well as the concluding event to be held on 9 May.
The three Presidents of the CoFoE will make a common political declaration, to be prepared by the three Co-Chairs, at the concluding event on 9 May. Thereafter, the three Institutions should ensure an appropriate follow-up, with a GAC discussion, an EP resolution in June, at the European Council in June, as well as in the Commission’s State of the Union debate and legislative programme in September. The final report of the CoFoE should be concluded by the end of this year/beginning of next year.
Therefore, the four plenaries will focus on:
- 10-12 March I: discussions on recommendations from Panel 1 (Dublin) and Panel 4 (Maastricht)
- 24-26 March II: Presentation and discussion of the WGs’ draft proposals
- 7-9 April I: Presentation and discussion of the WGs’ draft proposals
- 28-30 April II: Plenary to adopt the CoFoE proposals
- 9 May concluding event (preceded by a social event/dinner on 8 May): Presentation by the three Presidents and the three co-Chairs
In the meantime, and up until 20 February, citizens across Europe can also continue to take part in the CoFoE through the multilingual digital platform.
ARTICLES AND PAPERS
EURACTIV: With such members, who needs foes?
Hope for EU treaty reform springs eternal. Frustrated with the current state of affairs, the number of governments clamouring for the introduction of QMV in Council decision-making on CFSP matters has been growing. Perhaps the outcomes of the upcoming French and Hungarian elections, or indeed that other CoFoE, will tip the balance and lead to an alignment of European stars.
The coronavirus pandemic, which sent public debt ballooning, has opened the door for reform that many consider long overdue.
Professor Kalypso Nicolaïdis (Chair in global affairs at the European University Institute in Florence) said that CoFoE, stakeholders have done the best they can do, but to make it a permanent exercise within the EU, there needs to be room for constructive criticism.
Former Members Association of the European Parliament (FMA): Our European Union – Time to be Bold, to Act, and to Deliver
Proposal from the FMA to the CoFoE. The aim of this proposal, is to achieve a broad consensus within the FMA and its Reflection Group on the Future of Europe for a contribution to the plenary session of the CoFoE.
Citizens contributing to the CoFoE, the EU’s democracy engagement project, have made recommendations to widen the rule of law across member states, following views that there is a systemic conflictual climate between Poland and the EU.
The CoFoE is the first example of the systematic and structured involvement of EU citizens in shaping future policies that will significantly impact and shape our lives and the lives of future generations. We entered this process determined in the desire for the result to be a reform of the union that will reflect the wishes and demands of the citizens.
Une armée commune européenne est la condition sine qua non pour défendre les intérêts de l’Europe au-delà de sa politique commerciale et de son soft power.