The Conference on the Future of Europe held its first plenary session in Strasbourg on Saturday morning, hoping to encourage citizens, who are not yet very involved, to participate in this wide-ranging consultation on the future of the European Union.
“This conference is a unique experience,” said MEP Guy Verhofstadt at the European Parliament Chamber in Strasbourg, who had already hosted the conference’s launch event on May 9 in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron. Then he spoke of an “unprecedented exercise” to map out the next ten years.
Verhofstadt, coordinator of the European Parliament delegation, compared the conference to a relay race and explained that citizens would first declare their wishes before handing them over to the plenary. The latter then formulates “concrete proposals for reforms” and eventually delivers them to the EU institutions for implementation.
Engage citizens digitally too
“What we are trying to do now is get European citizens to talk to each other and formulate ideas about the Europe we want to build,” Anna Paula Zacharias, the current president of the European Union, said at the meeting, which consisted mainly of 108 members. From the European Parliament, 54 representatives of the Council, three members of the European Commission, 108 representatives of national parliaments, 16 representatives of social partners and civil society.
However, the 108 citizens who should also take part in the plenary are still being chosen and are therefore not expected to participate until after the summer, which led to criticism.
In addition to the plenary session, the conference on the future of Europe will take the form of a multilingual online platform, where European citizens can share their vision for the future of Europe. In France, a “citizens’ consultation” is also scheduled for the fall.
While citizens’ participation in the debate remains unknown, the platform, which was launched in mid-April, attracted more than 17,700 participants on Saturday. The population of the European Union is about 450 million.
Proposals emanating from the conference are expected in the spring of 2022.
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