Understanding Europe’s future is fundamental to both the UK’s and the EU’s future. If the UK wishes in the future to reunite with the EU, we, UK civil society, need to understand what that Future would look like.
In early 2021, the EU initiated the Conference on the Future of Europe, to enable and drive citizens’ input to the Future of Europe. This involved over of 800 citizens, randomly selected across the EU, working together as Citizens Panels representing all Member States, all genders and ethnicities over the past 12 months on developing concrete reform proposals under the authority of the Joint Presidency. This is the Presidents of the European Parliament, of the Council and of the European Commission, and is supported by an Executive Board, which is co-chaired by the three EU institutions (Mr Guy Verhofstadt, Member of the European Parliament, Mr Clément Beaune, State Secretary for EU Affairs for the French Council Presidency and Ms Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography).
The Conference was a new public forum for an open, inclusive and transparent debate established by the three EU institutions (Parliament, Council and Commission) as a bottom-up forum accessible to people from all corners of the Union. Other institutions, national Parliaments, social partners, regional and local authorities and civil society were also invited and joined in the work.
The main part of the work focussed on EU priorities and what the Union sought to achieve on behalf of its citizens including:
- the fight against climate change and environmental challenges,
- an economy that works for people,
- social fairness and equality,
- Europe’s digital transformation,
- promoting our European values and ideals,
- strengthening the EU’s voice in the world,
- as well as building upon the Union’s democratic foundations.
Initially, a total of 178 recommendations were formulated by four EU Citizens Panels, they were a direct response to the strategic and social issues in Europe’s neighbourhood: they suggest an EU army, the replacement of oil and gas imports with renewable energies, an end to national vetoes, greater democratic rights for citizens and fully harmonised responses to health and refugee crises.
A selection of sample recommendations shown on this page illustrates the variety of topics covered and the range policy issues covered by the four Citizens’ Panels.
These were translated into proposed policies and reforms in the Plenary of the Future Conference. On the 25th April, the Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe agreed on a comprehensive reform package. The final paper included 49 proposals with 325 suggestions for specific measures – a considerable number of which require amendments to the EU treaties in order to be implemented.
Some of these are far-reaching, such as the abolition of national vetoes, the right of initiative for the European Parliament, higher EU investment in climate and social issues, and an ambitious reform of the EU agricultural policy.
On Saturday 30th April, the 325 recommendations of the Executive Board were endorsed by the Conference Plenary and was then handed over to Presidents Von der Leyen, Metsola and Macron.
The Joint Presidents of the Conference subsequently delivered their Final Outcome Report on 9th May 2022 at a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, committing the EU to follow the recommendations in a timely manner.
Draft Report on Treaty Amendment – 22nd August 2023
The European Parliament’s ‘DRAFT REPORT on proposals of the European Parliament for the amendment of the Treaties (2022/2051(INL))’, was compiled by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. Rapporteurs: Guy Verhofstadt, Sven Simon, Gabriele Bischoff, Daniel Freund, Helmut Scholz
This report follows Parliaments resolution of 9 June 2022 on the call for a Convention for the revision of the Treaties. It reiterates Parliament’s call for the amendment of the Treaties and calls on the Council to immediately and without deliberation submit Parliament’s proposals to the European Council. Furthermore, it calls on the European Council to convene a Convention in accordance with the ordinary revision procedure provided for in Article 48(2) to (5) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), as soon as possible.
The Explanatory Statement lists the recommendations of COFE that have been taken into account in this report.
Webinar Discussion on the Report – 18th October 2023
Next week (25 Oct 2023), the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) of the European Parliament will vote on whether the EU Parliament should start the process for amendments to the EU Treaties and whether a Constitutional Convention should be convened for this purpose. This initiative to amend the treaties is supported by all five pro-democracy groups in the Parliament.
The changes are quite ambitious: national vetoes are to give way to majority decisions, the European Parliament is to become a legislator with equal rights and the EU Commission is to become a real government – accountable to the Parliament. Fundamental values and the rule of law are to be given much more power. This would fundamentally change the Union – as also demanded by the citizens at the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Joining us are the five MEPs who were instrumental in negotiating the proposals:
- Gaby Bischoff, S&D (SPD, Germany).
- Daniel Freund, Greens/EFA (Bündnis90/Die Grünen, Germany)
- Helmut Scholz, GUE/NGL (The Left, Germany)
- Sven Simon, EPP (CDU, Germany)
- Guy Verhofstadt, Renew (OpenVLD, Belgium)
Voices from academia, civil society and politics weighing in for us:
- Zuzana Kasáková, Ph.D., Vice-Dean for International Relations, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University Prague & Associate Research Fellow, Europeum Institute for European Policy.
- Valentina Balzani, Citizen Ambassador of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” from Italy
- Clara Föller, President of the Young European Federalists
- Anton Hofreiter, Member of the German Bundestag, Chairman of the European Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag
Date: 18 October 2023, 18:30 – 20:00 CEST (Brussels/Berlin)
View the full webinar on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UIbtylL9w8
Here is a short summary written by the Moderator:
“The five MEPs took us through their proposals and gave different emphases. But it was always clear that they all stand for a strengthening of European democracy. In times of political polarisation, which is becoming more and more extreme, many of you praised this constructive, cross-party attitude in the questions and in your emails afterwards. We also think: This was a strong example of how politics can be (and very often is in the European Parliament)!
In the comments of our three guests from civil society, citizens’ representatives and the national parliament, the praise for the proposals of the Constitutional Committee was also in the foreground. But it is precisely in the participation of citizens, both in European democracy itself and concretely in a possible constitutional amendment convention, that more can and must be done, in the opinion of our guests. Everyone agreed that the cooperation between the European Parliament and the national parliaments should be strengthened, not least because the national parliaments ratify a new treaty. There is still work to be done here.
Now the proposal of the five MEPs will first go to the vote in the Constitutional Committee next week and then to the plenary of the European Parliament by the end of the year. Only then will there be negotiations with the Council, whose representatives, as we have discussed in detail, have very different views and are often very sceptical about strengthening the Parliament in relation to their own power.
All our guests emphasised that all these steps now depend on the support of citizens and civil society. The reform of the EU is a joint task.”
European Parliament Plenary votes in favour: 22nd November 2023:
MEP Daniel Freund, one of the instigators, issued this email notification of success in passing the proposals for Treaty change in the European Parliament: