“The future is in your hands. Make your
voice heard!" is how the European institutions and the 27 Member States
are inviting their more than 446 million citizens to engage in a dialogue about
the future of the EU.
Democracy project par excellence
The starting signal for this democracy project
par excellence was given on Europe Day, 9 May 2021,with the opening event in
the European Parliament. The people of the EU now have the opportunity to
express their opinions and ideas as late as spring 2022, and to initiate
changes at European level based on this project. Citizens are invited to share
their views on European institutions and the decision-making processes. An
interim report should be available when France assumes the EU Council
Presidency on 1 July 2022.
Why is there a need for action?
The EU has long been accused of being
remote from its citizens, of having a non-transparent lobbying system as well
as having an excessive administrative organisation. French President Emmanuel
Macron previously formulated reform proposals a few years ago, but they met
with little response. The current magnitude of the need for action is shown by
Brexit and the ideas for withdrawal that keep cropping up elsewhere, as well as
the frequent lack of unity among the Member States regarding the pressing issues
of the day, such as climate change or the refugee crisis.
A digital platform is the heart of this conference
At the heart of the conference is a digital
platform that can be accessed at: https://futureu.europa.eu/. All of the citizens can
contribute their ideas on topics ranging from "Climate change and the
environment" to "Health", "Economy, social justice and
employment" and "The EU’s place in the world". They should give
their opinions on migration and digital transformation as well as
"Democracy in Europe", the rule of law or the "Education,
Culture, Youth and Sport” complex. The suggestions and comments, of which
several thousand have already been received, are accessible to everyone and in
turn, they will provide a stimulus for further discussion.
Four conferences of citizens to explore the issues in greater depth
From autumn onwards, any possible reforms
will then be further discussed at four conferences of citizens to be held in
Brussels, Strasbourg, Florence and Warsaw. Each of these conferences will be
attended by 200 randomly selected people. Each Member State should send at
least one woman and one man. About one third of the participants should be
between 16 and 25 years old.
Are long-term changes realistic?
With the start of the conference, the EU
institutions have committed themselves to listening to the people and examining
their demands for feasibility. But it remains to be seen whether the conference
will actually bring about long-term reforms. However, the discussions about a
competence shift in the health sector towards a "health union" could
intensify. Since the coronavirus crisis started, voices have been growing
louder in favour of giving Europe an increasingly centralised control function
instead of just a coordinating one, especially in the battle against pandemics.