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24th Jul 2021

Future of Europe: EU Council vetoes treaty change

  • The EU Council calls for the conference to be launched as soon as the epidemiological conditions allow it (Photo: European Commission)

EU countries, at the level of ambassadors, agreed the European Council's position on the arrangements for the Conference of the Future of Europe on Wednesday (24 June), paving the way for the opening of discussions with the European Commission and the European Parliament.

However, EU ambassadors steered clear of committing to any possible treaty change, arguing that there is ample room for improvement under the current set-up.

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According to the ambassadors, the conference does not fall under Article 48 of the Treaty on the European Union, which lays down the procedures for treaty amendments.

"This is very sensitive for all countries, so it is a compromise, [although] Austria wanted a treaty change," an EU source told EUobserver.

"EU leaders already agreed the discussion should focus on policies and issues close to people, instead of turning it into a treaty-change exercise," the source added.

Last month, several MEPs from different political parties called for an "open dialogue with no taboos", whose outcome should enable structural reforms in the EU, such as legislative initiatives or treaty changes.

"This broad dialogue with citizens and various other stakeholders will help guide the way ahead, contributing to a joint vision of the direction the EU should take in the next decade and beyond," the Croatian state secretary for European affairs, Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, said on Wednesday.

The two-year event, which was initially scheduled for Europe Day on 9 May was postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.

While the EU Council called for the conference to be launched as soon as the epidemiological conditions allow it, the EU parliament recently said that it should start in early autumn - targeting September.

The outcome of the conference would be reflected in a report to the EU Council in 2022.

Additionally, the EU Council called for "an equal role for the three EU institutions and the close association of national parliaments".

However, the Committee of the Regions warned earlier this year that "without the voice of more than 1 million local and regional elected politicians the conference will not succeed".

'Eminent EU personality'

Member states want the conference to be placed under the authority of "an eminent European personality, selected by the three EU institutions, as its independent and single chair".

The EU parliament was the first EU institution to set out its ideas in a resolution, with a detailed plan on the structure of the conference, involving citizens, civil society, and other stakeholders at the national, regional, and local level.

The centre-right European People's Party chairman Manfred Weber and the liberal Renew MEP Guy Verhofstadt were proposed as leaders of the process, which had been described as a "bottom-up" event.

Meanwhile, the EU commission is developing digital platforms that would enable engagement with citizens all across Europe until face-to-face meetings are possible again.

Future of Europe Conference: Council urged to move now

MEPs want to launch the delayed two-year event in September, which would require a joint position of the three main EU institutions before summer. EU commissioner Maroš Šefčovič is optimistic about reaching an EU Council's position under the Croatian presidency.

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

The new president of the Committee of the Regions has warned the EU Commission that a top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven conference will fail to rebuild trust in Europe. Instead, he proposes a stronger say for local and regional authorities.

Future of Europe: EU Council urged to propose a chair

Since the German presidency promised the Conference on the Future of Europe would start under their leadership, the European Commission and MEPs hope the event will be launched soon. But there is one issue: who will chair the conference?

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The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

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