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.