More commitment from Europe

IF – 12/2022

On 2 December, the EU institutions invited all those citizens who participated in the European and national citizens' panels to participate in the Conference on the Future of Europe. On 9 May, Europe Day, a closing event took place at the Conference on the Future of Europe. Various citizens' forums discussed Europe's role in the world, the climate and the environment, the rule of law and values as well as a stronger economy and social justice.

Requests for change in many life areas

The Conference of the Future of Europe has brought the debate covering the reorganisation of the EU into the spotlight. What will happen to the proposals that citizens have prepared during the last few months? When and how will they be implemented? The citizens came up with a total of 300 ideas and 49 proposals with general objectives. The citizens presented questions from the entire range of issues in the conference proposals and they included climate change and the environment, health, education and culture, the digital transformation, challenges posed by refugees, problems with regard to the rule of law, the EU’s budget, the state of the European economy and the role of young people and people with disabilities in all of these areas.

The result is that the citizens want Europe to do more in all areas. The European Commission and its member states are now considering what exactly they will be addressing during the coming months. Some of the proposals could be implemented within the framework of existing EU law. However, others would require amending specific EU treaties.

Amending treaties in the distant future

The European Parliament and the citizens have repeatedly called for an EU convention to be held to revise the EU treaties. Some member states also see the need for reforms, as opinion-forming within the Council is becoming increasingly difficult. This has become increasingly evident in decision-making with regard to the consequences of Russia's war in Ukraine. Above all, the slow pace of agreement on sanctions against Russia was deplored, as unanimity is still required here.

Nevertheless, the European Council has not yet taken a position on convening an European convention. The latter would not guarantee treaty changes, but could prepare them as a first step. Some Scandinavian and Eastern European countries are still especially critical of a fundamental reform that entails a change in the legal basis. Lessons learned from this unprecedented year-long conference covering citizen participation were also the focus of the exchange, including the European Commissions's intention to always hold citizen consultations prior to major legislative proposals.

Institutions are planning a follow-up

The Swedish Presidency has already announced that it will deal intensively with the results of the Conference on the Future of Europe during the first half of 2023 in order to actively implement some of the ideas politically. However, this will require cooperation between the European Parliament and the European Commission – so it remains to be seen what will finally be changed and updated.