Citizens Take Over Europe emphasizes the urgency to launch the Conference and calls on the Portuguese Presidency of the European Council to start the Conference under its mandate.
The EU Member States have modified their June 2020 position on the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Council’s proposed tripartite institutional chairmanship, together with the proposed executive board tasked with organisational and procedural decisions, poses concerns to us that EU institutions will excessively dominate the Conference. This top-down position must be balanced by bottom-up mechanisms. The executive board that will be steering the Conference should also include independent individuals as well as the whole spectrum of European political party groups rather than the EU institutional actors, only. A neutral Ombudsman should ensure that the executive board will operate free from conflicts of interest. The proposed tripartite leadership is welcome as a provisional step, however, the self-selection of the Chair by the Conference plenary should follow suit, as previously outlined.
The Conference promises a unique opportunity to reshape the future of Europe jointly with the citizens. However, future-oriented debates on the short-, mid-, and long-term priorities for Europe require an open agenda and effective bottom-up procedures that channel the priorities and preferences from citizens and civil society. The Conference should have the freedom to put forward and deliberate on all kinds of proposals that it finds relevant for the future of Europe, including those that require Treaty change. We expect the Conference to include constitutional questions which may lead to Treaty change or a European Constitution. If otherwise, the Conference would be unduly limiting its manoeuvre space in a rare moment of multiplying challenges to Europe’s future.
Above all, we trust that if the Conference is to become a new driving force for European democracy, it must turn into a truly transnational effort, directly involving civil society and citizens whose participation should be based on random selection. Moreover, it should delineate a clear role not only for national but also regional parliaments and municipal councils. Decentralising the Conference’s consultations to merely the Member States level risks that citizens’ opportunities to engage with the discussions on our common future will be excessively uneven. This would hamper the much needed search for mutual understanding and agreement among citizens and civil society across national borders. We want to emphasize that citizens need to grasp the full European dimension and unique transnational nature of the Union. To that aim, we simply expect a commitment from EU institutions acknowledging their vital structural role throughout the Conference. They need to be positioned as equal partners to the institutions, in accordance with our 10 principles for a citizens-centered Conference on the Future of Europe. Citizens’ contributions should be pivotal for the Conference’s entire deliberative process.
Ultimately, the success of the Conference on the Future of Europe will be judged on its level of ambition and the follow-up that will be taken. This unique and rare moment for Europe’s democracy must be met with political courage and commitment – hence, the will to make citizens’ participation a meaningful corner stone that will truly matter for the future of Europe.