Statement on Presidency of the Conference on the Future of Europe
January 22, 2021

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.

Citizens Take Over Europe Coalition