Today, the first important step was taken towards the construction of a modern and democratic EU that integrates civic participatory engagement between elections in the policymaking of its three institutions.
Today, a large majority in the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution that specified the form, content and process of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The European Commission (EC) and the EP aim with the Conference to reconnect with the citizens on developing its policies and build a more democratic Europe. This Conference originally proposed by the EC is expected formally to start this year and conclude in 2022. Prior to the Conference, the EP foresees a listening phase that will enable citizens to express their ideas, make suggestions and propose their own vision for Europe. The citizens’ input will be collected and processed based on uniform and consistent methodologies across all member states and at EU level. This will help generate reliable data to inspire EU policymaking.
The EP foresees a conference process based on a plenary with representatives from the 3 EU institutions, the CoR, the EESC, national parliaments and European level social partners. In parallel, it is projected that several thematic Agoras of 2-300 socio-economically representative EU citizens will each have at least two meetings.
In contrast to earlier initiatives such as the Citizens Consultations, the Citizens Dialogues, or PLAN D for Democracy, the EP’s resolution is methodologically rigorous and coherent. This ensures that all groups of citizens will be represented – including those who may conceive themselves to be socially and economically marginalised. The Resolution calls for a systematic approach so that representative citizen Agoras provide their inputs to a Conference Plenary. This allows citizens to present and defend their proposals in the deliberations of the Plenary. However, the resolution would benefit from describing how the citizen inputs will be used across the EU institutions and honour the ambitions of the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen.
Surprisingly, the EP refrained from systematically including all 450 million citizens in this measure which would allow them a say on the selection of policy priorities for the Conference. By using online platforms, the 450 million EU citizens could have developed a sense of ownership to EU policy and contributed constructively to its future. It is also worth noting that the EP document did not include deliberations among representative citizens panels at national or lower levels. This approach would allow far more citizens to formulate their visions for future European policies and would certainly yield more proposals that would be useful at the European level. Lastly, it comes as a surprise that the EP has not accorded local, national and regional CSOs the role as systematic, independent and diverse mobilisers of the citizens. These organisations could contribute their inputs at the start of the public hearing phase before the citizens gave their opinions on what policy issues to deal with and how. The same applies to the local social partners (employees, employers and CSOs) of the EESC and the local authorities as in the CoR.
In the coming week, the European Commission is expected to publish its proposal for the Conference process and hopefully a compromise will be agreed by the beginning of February.
Europe’s Peoples’ Forum has very actively engaged with the EP and helped to ensure that a number of significant principles have been formulated and included in the resolution.
However, Europe’s Peoples’ Forum has also stressed that it is crucial to include all citizens in the discussion process and subsequently the choice between policy solutions so that they feel acknowledged and encouraged to engage in politics. EPF has proposed a very comprehensive campaign based on civil society organisations and municipalities to ensure the highest possible participation rate and informed choices for all 450 million citizens through online consultations and to better present carefully developed visions for European policy solutions by representative national and regional fora. This model would indeed contribute a systematic bottom-up palette of visions for policies to be discussed by the thematic Agoras at European level.
Europe’s Peoples’ Forum will continue the process to help ensure that these elements are included in the construction of a new model that adds participatory democracy to the European Union. EPF’s proposal for a combined model is published in the updated methodology of 16 January. The Resolution from the EP is published through a link in the news of the Conference.
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Read the European Parliament's motion for a resolution on their website.