We, the Citizens Take Over Europe coalition, an alliance of European NGOs striving for a democratic and participatory Conference on the Future of Europe urge the European institutions to start the Conference as soon as possible.
The political deadlock on the question of who should chair the Conference is not only delaying the Conference that citizens and civil society are eagerly waiting to start, but also putting a stain on the process itself and further validating the democratic discrepancies of the EU.
Therefore, in order to overcome this political deadlock, we reiterate the Citizens Take Over Europe position to allow the Conference to elect its own Presidency. Granting the Conference members, including citizens, the role to elect its President would be a democratic and transparent solution to the institutional dilemma. A precedent for this already exists: the 1999 European Convention, which drafted the Charter on Fundamental Rights, chose its own chair. Alternatively, we would also support a tripartite-chair Presidency as suggested by some decision-makers, if it would be a means to end the standstill of the Conference.
The pandemic has brought many challenges to the Conference’s development, including the delay of the start and the inability to meet in person. Institutional discussions should rather deal with how to safely begin the Conference as soon as possible in a way that it provides meaningful participation for citizens, in line with the 10 principles Citizens Take Over Europe has set out. A new push for democracy cannot be interrupted by disagreements about individuals chairing the Conference, but it must get to work on the real issues that concern citizens in these unprecedented times.
If the deadlock cannot be resolved immediately, we would welcome an initiative of European Parliament, as the house of citizens’ voices in the EU, to launch the Conference before the Joint Declaration is published. To overcome any deadlock on the structure of the Conference, the first randomly-selected citizens’ assembly meeting of the Conference should be tasked to review and settle the Joint Declaration with a particular focus on the Conference agenda, so as to ensure that topics proposed in the Joint Declaration correspond with citizens’ preferences.
Any further delay to begin the Conference due to a political stalemate will risk losing any momentum and support the Conference had. Unprecedented challenges have changed the EU significantly, making it even more essential that citizens are involved in these changes and that democratic participation does not just become an afterthought. For the future of Europe, it is imperative that the Conference begin promptly and swiftly, as democratically and transparently as possible.
*Credits lead photo: Irene Beltrame x Transeuropa Caravans: Public tribute to partisans in Bologna (Italy).
As Citizens Take Over Europe we are working to bring together civil society organisations, citizens and residents of Europe with a shared goal: to promote a future for the European people that they can shape together during the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe and beyond.
Yet, European affairs are a complex matter that people make sense of in highly diverse ways. We want to have the different voices included in making our common destiny!
That’s why, today we are launching a public consultation addressing citizens across Europe and asking for you to support and participation.
What can you do?
Your experiences, views and expectations are valuable to us (and possibly also to you) for better understanding what it means to live in the EU.
You just need 15 minutes of your time to take part in our consultation:
Your participation will be completely anonymous. A working group of CTOE members has developed this survey by using the innovative SenseMaker tool, a mixed method that aims at deeper understandings combined with broadest possible participation.
We want to publish the results – stories about, forms and expectations of being a citizen or resident of the EU – on our CTOE website, as this will foster the quality of conversations on the future of Europe.
Thanks for bringing your thoughts and ideas to the table, we are looking forward to your participation!
The Citizens Take Over Europe initiative brings together a coalition of 50 European civil society organisation who call for citizens to be at the centre of European decision-making in the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.
The coalition aims to host an independent self-organised citizen-driven Conference. Citizens Take Over Europe is organising a series of online events on the 15 December & 13-14 January showcasing the vision for a dynamic, participatory and inclusive Conference on the Future of Europe.
The Citizens Take Over Europe coalition would like to express its strong support of women in Poland protesting the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal regarding abortion, as well as great admiration for their courage and determination.
On the 22nd of October Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled on the unconstitutionality of pregnancy terminations in cases where the foetus is severely damaged or malformed. The ruling further tightens the unjustly severe restrictions on pregnancy terminations which are among the most regressive in the EU. International law recognises the denial of abortion in cases of severe foetal damage as inhumane and degrading treatment which are outlawed by international treaties ratified by Poland. Therefore, the ruling is a tragic and terrifying precedent where one of the EU member states legally sanctions torture of their own citizens. On top of this brutal disregard for basic human rights, the tribunal’s decision goes also against the rule of law, since the decision was passed by an irregular panel. It also circumvents parliamentary process, as in the last few years similar legislative initiatives were repealed in the parliament. The cynicism of the gesture is all the more abhorrent since the ruling was delivered deliberately when the right to protest is curtailed because of the surge in COVID-19 infections.
The dynamics of the protests on Polish streets clearly demonstrate the inseparability of the rule of law, human rights and citizens participation. The current situation in Poland makes evident the tangible dimension of the rule of law, its direct impact on human lives and well-being. It proves that the formal framework of the legal system creates the political space where human rights can be exercised. On the other hand, the legal framework not only remains empty, but can also prove powerless, without the citizens’ active participation in the democratic process. In the recent few years, Polish citizens have been forced time and again to lead an unequal and rigged fight in defense of the rule of law. The situation in Poland shows that there can be no complacency about the democratic process. Citizens Take Over Europe believes that an important measure of this complacency is the unwillingness to or simply lack of interest in involving citizens in the decision-making process. The brave stance of Polish women, affirming their political subjectivity, reminds us of this basic truth. It should resonate loudly, especially with the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe in mind. Today, the future is being forged in the women’s fight for justice, dignity and inclusiveness beyond genders.
With the legal system allowing their torture, Polish women can rightly feel that they are no longer recognized as citizens of their own country. In these tragic circumstances, it is more important than ever that they are also citizens of the EU. They need to feel the full weight of European law behind them. It is the duty of the EU to take urgent action to that effect. Reproductive health, considered in terms of human rights issue, should become a priority and appropriate legislative solutions should be developed in order to effectively protect the EU citizens on this front.
“You’ll never be alone again” – women chant in unison across Polish cities, the largest and the smallest ones. The EU needs to join them in this chorus. Your solidarity and courage gives us hope; Europeans everywhere stand with you in this crucial fight.
We, members of the Citizens Take Over Europe coalition, recognize the importance of the position of President for the Conference on the Future of Europe and gravity of their role in what should be the most inclusive, citizens-centered, and meaningful conference Europe has seen. However, the current approach of appointing the President, behind closed doors and with an institutional deadlock, is destroying the credibility of the process and causing long delays. The manner in which the President is being appointed is indicative of the entire negotiating process of the Conference – intransparent, with no input from citizens or civil society, and limited and seldom communication to the public.
The selection of the President should be done, above all, in a transparent manner. In order to ensure the highest legitimacy of the individual holding the position:
The Conference itself should hold a democratic election and elect its own President among its plenary members, which could include Members of the European Parliament, national public officials, and members of civil society. This would allow for a public and transparent appointment procedure and could be a means out of the current deadlock. The 1999 European Convention, which drafted the Charter on Fundamental Rights, is a precedent for such a Conference choosing its own chair.
The Conference should keep gender perspective in high consideration.
The role of the President is instrumental in ensuring the democratic and transparent functioning of the Conference. To this end, the responsibilities of the President of the Conference should be to:
Be a catalyst for citizen involvement at all stages of the process, including designing the Conference and setting its agenda
Guarantee reliable and meaningful online and offline methods of deliberation, in consideration of the Covid-19 crisis
Ensure the formal and practical involvement of civil society
Safeguard the balanced involvement of all parties as equals, including citizens
Oversee the publication of all Conference documents to ensure transparency at all stages
Ensure a communications campaign about the Conference is established through all EU institutions’ formal communication channels, in order to reach all corners of Europe
Promote the inclusion of democratic and participatory innovations in the design of the Conference, such as randomly selected citizens’ assemblies
Monitor that the Conference resolutions are followed up and implemented by legislative or non-legislative means, including treaty change, if deemed necessary
The success of the Conference on the Future of Europe will highly rely on the dedication and competence of the President in order to ensure a meaningful, transparent, and democratic Conference for its full duration.
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