Conference on the Future of Europe

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.

The Joint Presidency 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).

Initially, a total of 178 recommendations were formulated by four EU Citizens Panels, they are 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.  The sample recommendations in the section below show the variety of topics covered.

These were translated into proopsed 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.  

Guy Verhofstadt closing the Final COFE Plenary

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.

Sample Recommendations from the four EU Citizens’ Panels

“Climate Change and Environment/Health”
Sample from the 51 recommendations:

No 9:  More investment in research and supply of clean energy. 
No 12:  Recipients of EU agricultural subsidies should follow clear environmental standards and promote sustainable agriculture 
No 17:   Agricultural antibiotics should only be used when absolutely necessary 
No 49:  Health and health care should be a shared competence between the EU and the EU Member States; 

“Stronger economy, social justice and development”
Sample from 48 recommendations:

Nos 1 and 30: Minimum wages everywhere in Europe in relation to purchasing power.
No 10:   Right to affordable energy.
Nos 13 and 31:  Alignment of taxes that allows differences but ends tax avoidance 
No 17:    Right to access to the internet. 
No 21:    Right to minimum social standards including minimum pension.
No 25:    Right to access to social housing when needed.
No 26:    Better and harmonised rights at birth of children
No 27:     Better and harmonised rights for families for marriage and adoption.

“Democracy, Values, Rule of Law, Security”
Sample from the 39 recommendations:

No 10:  Financial sanctions for all violations of the rule of law
No 16:  Right to vote for EU citizens, directly for European party lists with candidates from many member states.
No 21:   European public investment to create good jobs and improve and equalise the quality of life across the EU.
No 23:   Large companies should be taxed properly, tax havens in the EU should be abolished.
No 35:    A European Constitution that protects democracy and fundamental rights and is voted on by citizens.
No 39:    EU to hold Citizen’s Assemblies under legally binding regulation every 12-18 months and politicians to be accountable to such Assemblies. 

“EU in the World and Migration”
Sample from the 40 recommendations:

No 2:   Independence from oil and gas imports by replacing them with renewable energies from the sun and wind, by more trains instead of more cars No 10:   Guarantee the health and safety of migrants through EU-organised welcome centres
No 20:   A European army for defence, disaster relief and missions on behalf of the United Nations 
No 21:    For majority decisions instead of unanimity, i.e. the abolition of vetoes No 33:  A binding system for the distribution of asylum seekers.