Dear members of the Conference Plenary,
On 19th June 2021, 57 civil society organisations from across Europe sent a letter to the Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe (hereafter: the Conference), expressing strong concerns about the lack of inclusion of marginalised communities in the Conference. On 16th July 2021, the Co-Chairs sent a reply, indicating that they are not planning on taking any concrete measures in response to these concerns. With this letter, civil society organisations from across Europe, many of which have signed the first letter, issue a final appeal to the Conference Plenary.
We are disappointed and concerned about the lack of consideration that the Executive Board has so far shown in regard to the inclusion of marginalised communities. We call on EU institutions to address this oversight in order to fulfil the Conference’s intended goals of being an open, democratic, and inclusive process. In its current form, the Conference epitomizes Europe’s fundamental shortcomings rather than its solutions. The Conference Plenary meeting on 23 October is a crucial opportunity to turn things around and to create an inclusive and meaningful participatory Conference process.
We turn towards you, the Conference Plenary and highest decision-making body of the Conference: we urge you to use your power and influence to ensure that the voices of marginalised communities are prevented from being silenced and can be included at the centre of the Conference, and in the debate and decision-making on the future of Europe more generally.
More concretely, we call on you to join us in voicing the following demands during the upcoming Plenary meeting and throughout the Conference process:
- Implement a diversity assessment of the Citizens’ Panels: the selection of participants for the Citizens’ Panels has been insufficiently clear and transparent and highly problematic in its design: EU residents without EU passports have been excluded, and due to the gender binary approach, non-binary people have been mistreated, if not excluded, as well. Finally, no quota has been set to ensure adequate representation for racialised and other marginalised communities. This dynamic may reproduce the same inequalities this Conference aims to tackle. While it seems impossible to make changes to the composition of the Citizens’ Panels now, a diversity assessment would make transparent how (non-)diverse the panels are. The assessment should also address the degree of diversity of the organisers, moderators and experts that are involved in the Citizens’ Panels.
- Take measures to create a safe space for all Citizens’ Panel participants: the Citizens’ Panels have started already, but we need to ensure that all the selected people are equally included and heard in the process, given the structural inequalities in society and the previously identified inconsistencies in the participant selection criteria and process. Active and inclusive measures should be taken to ensure a safe space for all panel participants, including notably those from marginalised communities, starting with the appointment of a qualified Inclusion Officer or Person of Trust who is mandated and equipped to address complaints and needs from participants in a confidential and resolute manner.
- Set up a Conference Inclusiveness Council and ensure the representation of marginalised communities in the Conference Plenary: in order to ensure that the voices of marginalised communities are heard, and to compensate for the shortcomings of the Citizens’ Panels, an additional Conference body should be set up: a Conference Inclusiveness Council. This body should be composed of a wide variety of EU citizens and residents from marginalised communities with a proven track record of social and political engagement with underrepresented communities. Like the Citizens’ Panels, this body should appoint 20 members as delegates for the Conference Plenary. The Conference Plenary should commit to examining and responding in detail to the proposals put forward by the Inclusiveness Council.
- Invite the Coordinator on Anti-Racism as member of the Conference Plenary: in order to ensure that anti-racism is mainstreamed in all of the work of the Conference, the EU Coordinator on Anti-Racism Michaela Moua should be invited to become a member of the Conference Plenary. This would enable a consistent policy alignment and an intersectional approach across EU policies.
- Extend the timeline of the Conference: in order to ensure intentional and impactful engagement with marginalised communities around the Conference process, more time is needed to effectively build pathways for participation. Additionally, we call on the Conference organisers to create more accessible conditions for ideas to be shared and events to be organised on the Conference Digital Platform. An extended timeline and more accessible participation opportunities would enable both civil society organisations and Conference organisers to bridge gaps in communication and bring a better representation of marginalised groups into the Conference at the community level.
The above list of demands is not exhaustive, but they constitute important steps towards an inclusive Conference.
An explicit, credible and sustained effort of implementing strategically inclusive and equitable practices in the Conference process is crucial. The oppression experienced by many marginalised communities, which lies at the root of many of Europe’s pressing social and political problems, should not be exacerbated in a free and democratic exercise overseen by EU leadership. Without the voices of marginalised communities, the EU will not comprehensively address these inequities, effectively contributing to the reproduction of systems of oppression that underlie them.
We count on you to lead the way towards an inclusive Europe!
Provisional list of organisations co-signing the letter:
- Citizens Take Over Europe
- European Alternatives
- European Network against Racism (ENAR)
- European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO)
- New Europeans
- Schwarzkopf Stiftung
- The ECI Campaign
- Understanding Europe
Civil society organisations can co-sign this letter by filling out the following form. The deadline is Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 18:00 CEST. The letter will be sent to Conference Plenary members on Wednesday, 20th October 2021. For questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We take note of the fact that the Executive Board already foresees to send a questionnaire to participants at both the start and at the end of the process (https://assets.futureu.europa.eu/uploads/decidim/attachment/file/28447/en.pdf, page 5). This questionnaire can be developed and integrated in (the spirit of) the diversity assessment as described above.
- During the European Youth Event there was a far-right attack targeted at Muslim youth and other young people from racialised communities (see https://femyso.org/a-response-to-far-right-attacks-targeting-muslim-youth-at-the-european-parliament/ and https://www.diasporavote.eu/2021/05/19/press-release/). It is of crucial importance that we all, and the EU institutions first and foremost, speak out against this. Active measures need to be taken to ensure a safe space for everyone, especially in the framework of the Conference.