Saturday

22nd Jan 2022

EU warned against making 'Future EU' conference a one-off

  • The new German government coalition deal said the conference should be a starting point to reform the EU, triggering 'necessary treaty changes' that lead 'to a European federal state' (Photo: European Committee of the Regions)
Listen to article

Former European Council president Herman van Rompuy on Wednesday (1 December) warned EU policymakers against making the Conference on the Future of Europe a "one-off exercise," arguing that democracy will continue to be under pressure after 2022.

"Democracy is in crisis, and it will not be over after the conference, so we need to continue our work together to improve democracy at all levels of power," he told local and regional authorities during a plenary debate of the Committee of the Regions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

While the conference will not bring significant changed to the treaties, "much can be done within the current structure to strengthen and deepen the EU and democracy," he added.

He argued that, for example, the conference presents a unique opportunity to bring the more than one million elected local and regional politicians on the policy agenda "to help restore people trust in the democracy".

"A crucial element of democratic renewal is more participatory democracy," he said, adding that the tools used to provide citizens' input for the conference need to be more widely-used by the "silent majority".

Citizens' input to the conference comes mainly from two sources: a digital platform, where all citizens can post their ideas, endorse others and organise events, and four citizens' panels, which each bring together 200 citizens to make recommendations on the way ahead for Europe.

For Alexander Milisov, one of the young Europeans participating in the panel on EU democracy, "the EU doesn't do a good job in representing itself".

"Citizens don't know what the EU is, what is doing or how it is doing it," he also said, arguing that even those studying regional development in the context of the EU often do not know that the committee of the regions even exists.

"We cannot have a proper democracy without citizens knowing how they are governed," he warned, urging politicians to bring EU bureaucracy and the 'Brussels Bubble' closer to citizens.

After the panels, citizens' recommendations will be discussed by discussed within the conference plenaries – where citizens, EU officials, national deputies, civil society and other bodies are represented.

Citizens' proposals agreed in the plenaries will then be reflected in a final report, which will collate the conclusions of the conference by spring 2022 - a timely date for French president Emmanuel Macron, who was a major force in pushing the idea, as France will then be the rotating presidency of the EU.

But Green member of Germany's Baden-Württemberg parliament, Josef Frey, also pointed out that it is crucial for the conference to have a "next phase" in which proposals are followed by concrete results.

The new German coalition, for its part, stated in its 179-page coalition agreement last month that the conference should be a starting point to reform the EU, triggering "necessary treaty changes" that lead "to a European federal state".

Opinion

Conference on Future of Europe must listen to local voices

The Conference on the Future of Europe must concretely involve our local communities, regions, cities and villages. This is key to avoid a top-down exercise that would only feed the demagogic and anti-European false narrative of populists and eurosceptics.

Opinion

Biden, eurofederalists and eurosceptics

While the EU is turning the Conference on the Future of Europe into another round in the outdated debate between eurofederalists and eurosceptics, President Biden has diplomatically endorsed the emergence of the Union as a democratic polity in international law.

Opinion

How to 'Europeanise' the upcoming French EU presidency?

France will take over the EU presidency on 1 January. If Emmanuel Macron wants to make it a stepping stone in European integration, he should make additional efforts to Europeanise its objectives and seriously engage with EU partners beyond Germany.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

Column

When the watchdog stays in his kennel

As an independent watchdog, the EU Commission can launch infringement procedures, taking member states to the European Court of Justice if they do not comply. But all too often the watchdog just barks a little before returning to its kennel.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us