The EU institutions decided to hold a two-year conference on the future of the European Union. Together with the (at the time) French State Minister for European Affairs Amélie de Montchalin, her Austrian colleague Karoline Edtstadler, 50 MEPs, and experts on EU policy from Member States and think tanks, we discussed during an online dialogue: How can citizens be involved in the conference? What topics should be addressed? And how can and must the results be implemented?
If it were up to the European Parliament and the Commission alone, the concept for the Conference on the Future of Europe would have been finalized long ago. However, the Member States were hesitant. The ONLINE DIALOGUE "United in Diversity: How to make a participatory Conference on the Future of Europe happen and a success?” came at just the right time. Together with the King Baudouin Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, we invited Amélie de Montchalin and Karoline Edtstadler to discuss the hurdles and requirements for the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The idea of the Conference on the Future of Europe is simple, but far-reaching: In a two-year process, all the European institutions should have come together to discuss EU priorities with citizens from across the EU. The Corona pandemic has shown that we are only strong if we take action together. That is the reason why the Conference on the Future of Europe is still so important. European solidarity can only be established through discussion and discourse with its citizens because they must have a say on the EU’s future agenda.
Corona—along with a lack of consensus among Member States—has delayed the start of the conference. Our Democracy and Participation in Europe project has been involved from the very beginning with own proposals on the conception and substance of the conference (EINWURF 4/2019 - Conference Talk).
All the involved parties agreed on three things during the ONLINE DIALOGUE. First, more participation and real opportunities for citizens should be more than just lip service. Proposals for a European Citizens' Forum, with randomly selected participants from all Member States, can enhance the democratic potential of the EU. The important thing is that citizens must know how their proposals will be taken into consideration and incorporated into the debate.
Secondly, the right topics must be chosen for the debate. Some of these are obvious: European solidarity, ecological renewal and digitalisation. However, there must also be an opportunity to introduce new questions. And thirdly, the European institutions must agree on a clear and effective process on how to bring together the many different transnational and national citizens’ proposals and how the overall results of the conference will be dealt with.
While our discussions were happening, the Member States in the Council agreed on a common position. Things are moving forward!
The Bertelsmann Stiftung, King Baudouin Foundation and Open Society Foundations have been working for many years to promote more and innovative citizen participation at all political levels. Together, we founded an alliance that discusses new concepts for the European Union. Political decision-makers join forces with experts on the topics of Europe, democracy, and participation to consider concrete ways to implement the concepts.
Previous dialogues included Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the Commission; Mairead McGuinness, Vice-President of the European Parliament; Michael Roth, German Minister for European Affairs; Gisela Erler, State Councillor for Civic Participation in Baden-Württemberg.