On 9 May, on the occasion of Europe Day, the three European institutions (Council, Commission and European Parliament) inaugurated the Conference on the Future of Europe at Parliament’s headquarters in Strasbourg. This new temporary forum for debate aims to give citizens the opportunity to define what the European Union of the future will look like. Until the spring of 2022, the views of citizens on European policies and the direction that the Union will have to take in the coming years will be collected and debated.
The joint declaration signed on 10 March by the three institutions includes a non-exhaustive list of issues that the Conference will be able to address and in which the EU has competences to act: health, climate change, social justice, digital transformation …
You can watch the opening act again at the following link.
How does the Conference work?
The main organs of the Conference are the citizen panels, the plenary, the executive committee and the citizen events or panels that are held at the national, regional and local levels.
- Citizen panels are the central and most innovative element of the Conference. They serve as spaces for debate and presentation of proposals made by part of citizenship. They are made up of 200 people selected at random, although a third is made up of young men and young women between 16 and 25 years old. Four panels were formed to address the following topics: 1) values, rights, the rule of law, democracy and security; 2) climate change, environment and health; 3) a stronger economy, social justice, employment, education, youth, culture, sports and digital transformation; and 4) the European Union in the world and migration. The four panels will meet three times between September 2021 and January 2022.
- The plenary of the Conference is the body that oversees the discussion of national and European recommendations. On May 9 its rules of procedure were adopted: out of a total of 433 members, 108 are representatives of the European Parliament (10 of whom are Spanish), 54 of the Council (two for each Member State), 3 of the European Commission, 108 of the national parliaments, 108 citizens (80 people from the citizen panels, 27 representatives of national events and the President of the European Youth Forum), 18 from the Committee of the Regions, 18 from the Economic and Social Committee, 8 social partners and 8 representatives of civil society. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will also be involved in discussing the EU’s international role. The plenary will meet six times between June 2021 and March 2022. Panels 1 and 2 will make recommendations for the December plenary, and panels 3 and 4 for January. The one in February will work on the final proposals for submission to the executive committee. The last plenary session will take place in March.
- The Conference is subject to the authority of the three signatory institutions, which hold a joint presidency. An executive committee has been set up to direct the work, prepare the plenary meetings, publish the conclusions and present, in the spring of 2022, a report on the final outcome of the Conference. This committee is formed by three representatives from each institution, and is co-chaired by:
- Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State of Portugal for European Affairs, representing the current Presidency of the Council.
- Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the Committee on Democracy and Demography, representing the European Commission.
- Guy Verhofstadt, spokesman for the liberal political group Renew Europe, representing the European Parliament.
- There will also be national, regional and local events and panels, organized by each Member State to make contributions to the Conference. Citizen participation in these events is a key piece and must aim to reflect European diversity. In order to ensure that the ideas expressed in the events are translated into concrete recommendations, a multilingual digital platform has been set up in which the contributions of all the events held are collected.
The committee also has four observers, including advisory committees (The Committee of the Regions and The European Economic and Social Committee ). Spain, which will hold the Presidency of the Council in the second half of 2023, has an observer position.
What is being done in Galicia?
From the Galicia Europa Foundation, on May 10, 2021, we organized the event “Fai oír a túa voz” (Make your voice heard), on the occasion of the celebration of Europe Day and the opening of the Conference. The event, which was attended by Galician and Portuguese representatives, aimed to inform about the Conference in Galicia and to actively involve the youth in the debates and events to be held in the context of the Conference. you can see the event again in the following link.
This first event was part of a joint action between twelve Galician and Portuguese entities, led by the Fundación Galicia Europa and Europe Direct de A Coruña, with the aim of imparting the Conference in both regions and encouraging participation, especially of youth and the specific issue of cooperation. cross-border. Under the slogan #ÉotEUmomento, this joint campaign provides for the publication of a promotional video every 15 days to call for youth participation in the Euroregion. The first was prepared and published by the Fundación Galicia Europa on May 31 (see here).
The entities that form part of this joint action are: AECT Galicia–Norte de Portugal; Asociación EU Coopero; Eurocidade Chaves–Verín; Europe Direct A Coruña; Europe Direct Bragança; Europe Direct do Tâmega, Sousa e Alto Tâmega; Europe Direct Lugo; Europe Direct Minho; Federação Nacional de Associações Juvenis (FNAJ); Fundación Galicia Europa (FGE); Instituto Galego do Talento (IGATA); and Instituto Português do Desporto e Juventude (IPDJ).
Source: Fundación Galicia Europa
The role of regional and local entities
The Committee of the Regions is committed to making a specific contribution to the Conference on those issues that are of most interest to local and regional authorities, and is working in a number of areas, including:
- The debate on how to strengthen the impact and influence of local and regional authorities in the community decision-making process. To this end, the CoR has set up a High Level Group on European Democracy, which is chaired by former President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy.
- Making a wide-ranging public survey to find out what citizens think about the EU, its role, function and future challenges.
- The organization of debates in its committee meetings and plenary sessions. Its major annual events such as European Week of Regions or EuropCom will also be the focus of the Conference.
- The adoption of opinions and resolutions relating to the Conference, as adopted in the March plenary.
- Support in the organization of citizen panels at local and regional level.
- The organization of local dialogues in the Member States such as the one held on 9 May in Strasbourg.
- The election of a person in charge by region and municipality to report on the events and debates that are taking place.
The results of this work will be discussed at the 9th European Summit of Regions and Citizens to be held in February or March 2022 in Marseille, where the final contribution of the CoR to the Conference will be approved.
The contribution of youth to the Conference on the Future of Europe
With the aim of giving young people a voice in the Conference, a special edition of the European Youth Event (EYE2021)will be held on 8 and 9 October. It will bring together more than a hundred young people between the ages of 16 and 30 from different parts of Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The meeting organized by the Youth Outreach Unit of the European Parliament will take place on-site, but will be complemented by online activities to ensure maximum participation.
The EYE 2021 will discuss the suggestions of European youth collected since 2018 on the platform YouthIdeas.eu. The ideas that receive the most support and votes (both on the platform and in person) will be included in a final report to be presented to members and representatives of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Complementary work of the Council
The first meeting of the group called “Ministers for the Future”, led by European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, took place in Coimbra on 17 May. Composed of the European Ministers of General Affairs, at this first meeting they discussed the strategic autonomy of the Union and inaugurated the Pan-European Foresight Network (EU-wide Foresight Network), which aims to strengthen the foresight of the European Commission and Member States for future challenges and challenges.