Saturday

24th Oct 2020

'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

  • 'Without the voice of more than one million local and regional elected politicians the conference will not succeed,' incoming head of the Committee of the Regions, Apostolos Tzitsikostas, warned (Photo: European Committee of the Regions)

If the Conference on the Future of Europe is a top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven process that does not actively involve its local and regional leaders, it will fail, the new president of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) warned on Wednesday (12 February).

The planned conference, a two-year initiative which aims to reconnect citizens, must be an opportunity "to rebuild trust and faith" and this can be done only via representativeness and inclusiveness, incoming chief Apostolos Tzitzikostas told commissioner for democracy and demography, Dubravka Suica, during a debate.

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

"But without the voice of more than one million local and regional elected politicians the conference will not succeed," he warned, adding that "only by being ambitious and open to change, we can restore trust in the EU".

Tzitsikostas, who will head the CoR for the next two-and-a-half years, believes that the conference is a good opportunity to address the 'democratic deficit' of the EU.

"If the three main institutions are serious about turning the conference from an institutional debate into a tool to put 'citizens first', they need to take on board local and regional elected politicians," he said.

"We stand ready to contribute to the conference and bring Europe back home to its people," he added.

The European Commission should understand that "the crisis of the institutions and the problems we are facing today in the EU, such as Brexit, radicalism, extremism, etc, stem from the fact that the people feel their cities and regions forgotten," Tzitsikostas told EUobserver.

"These are signs that we need to carefully take into consideration if we want to have a better European Union in the future," he added.

Process over substance?

The European Parliament voted its position on 15 January on the conference, after the commission announced its broad lines a week later - but the EU Council is still to follow.

However, the discussion until now has been focussed rather on the format rather than content.

While the commission's proposal does not go into details, the parliament proposed in its resolution that the membership of the conference should be constituted by 135 MEPs, 27 members representing EU countries, between two to four members per member-state parliament, three commissioners, four members of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and four members of the CoR.

However, the discussion with the different stakeholders are still ongoing and Tzitsikostas hopes to be able to increase the representation of the local and regional authorities in the conference to give the CoR a "main role" in the conference, as local and regional authorities are the closest to citizens and communities, he told EUobserver.

The parliament is also calling for a steering committee - with members from the parliament, commission and council - to oversee the process and prepare the meetings of the conference.

But the CoR said it wants to be part of this steering committee to ensure the political and institutional balance between all levels of governance.

"EU's legitimacy must be based on the representativeness ensured by all its elected European politicians, from local, regional, national and EU levels," Tzitsikostas said.

"If the Union fails to count on all its elected representatives, it will fail in rebuilding trust," he added.

The presidents of the three main EU institutions - Charles Michel, David Sassoli, and Ursula von der Leyen, said last month that a joint declaration on the conference will soon be published - which the CoR agreed to sign.

Also, the CoR and the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE) have launched a series of debates to be held between March and May 2020 to contribute to the discussions on the future of EU decision-making processes.

Some 28 from 71 regional parliaments with legislative powers have declared their readiness to take part in the project.

Parliament calls for citizens' 'agoras' to shape future EU

Details have been revealed by the European Parliament of its proposals on how to conduct the two-year post-Brexit reform exercise of the EU. But a final format will have to be determined in talks with member states and the commission.

EU states wary of MEPs leading future conference

The majority of member states back the "policy first" concept of the Croatian EU presidency for the focus of the post-Brexit internal reform exercise. EU countries also want to make sure the EU parliament does not get to lead alone.

News in Brief

  1. UK scientists fear Brexit blow to joint EU research
  2. Greek migrant camp lockdown extended
  3. Lukashenko and 14 others in EU crosshairs
  4. EU imposes sanctions over 2015 Bundestag cyberattack
  5. Italy reignites Mont Blanc border dispute with France
  6. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  7. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  8. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

EU parliament vows not to cave in to budget pressure

The parliament's majorty dismisses the German EU presidency's proposal on the rule of law conditionality, which has emerged as the main political obstacle to agree on the next long-term EU budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. South Caucasus death toll much worse than feared
  2. Polish court effectively bans legal abortions
  3. MEPs urge EU to be ready to dump disputed energy treaty
  4. EU commission on defensive over 'revolving doors'
  5. Why German presidency is wrong on rule of law
  6. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  7. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  8. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us