Unknown starting point.

IF – 06/2020

The scheduled conference on the Future of Europe is to be an unprecedented democratic showcase project of the European Citizens' Initiative and is to be shaped and organised by the three European institutions – the EU Parliament, the Council and the Commission. This is based on a proposal made by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2019 policy guidelines. This proposal stated that the wishes of EU citizens should be heard better in EU's policymaking.

Schedule cancelled due to coronavirus

The conference was supposed to start on 9 May, the annual Europe Day, and last for two years. The EU Parliament wants citizens, representatives of civil society and interest groups at European, national, regional and local level to be involved in defining EU priorities.

Although the European Council commissioned the design of the conference end of 2019, discussions on its specific implementation proved very difficult as the Council did not adopt the mandate for six months. The COVID-19 crisis has overshadowed everything and a political deadlock, as with this project, is noticeable. As a result, the concept has largely been brought to a halt.

Lack of motivation?

In the European institutions the conference has already been nicknamed "the Loch Ness Monster". The conference repeatedly appeared in various meetings and priority lists and disappeared again without having made substantial progress. The European Parliament reacted with indignation and exerted pressure by means of a motion for a resolution in April to bring the conference back onto the politically relevant stage. MEPs call for open public participation, evaluable measures on the results of the conference, including a commitment by the three major EU institutions to EU reforms in line with citizens' concerns, possibly including a review of the EU treaties.

Crisis Manager Germany

Croatia's EU Presidency has kindly left this difficult task for Germany to solve. COVID-19 in particular has very clearly shown EU's institutional weaknesses, which need to be discussed and solved in the long term. Confidence in Germany's EU Presidency is high, thus pressure too. The EU Council must take a certain position and commit itself to reforms which are laid down in the Conference on the Future of Europe. 

In her presentation of the priorities of Germany's EU Presidency made to the European Parliament on 9 July in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also explicitly mentioned the relaunch of the Conference on the future of Europe to give a new impetus to European politics. The conference is to tentatively kick-start by autumn 2020, but whether this is actually feasible remains to be seen.