Conference on the Future of Europe: elected politicians at EU, national, regional/local level should team up to strengthen the EU democratic model

(Source: European Committee of Regions)

Regional and local elected politicians – represented in the EU by the CoR – and Members of the European Parliament – the only EU institution whose members are directly elected by citizens – should team up in the framework of the Conference of the future of Europe. Their common goal should be to make emerge the citizens’ call for a Union which must be closer to them, respectful of the principle of subsidiarity and forward-looking in reacting to new challenges at global and local level. This is the message shared by CoR Members during the 145th CoR plenary session with Guy Verhofstadt, Manfred Weber and Iratxe Garcia Perez – three representatives of the European Parliament within the Conference’s Executive Board. The three MEPs stressed that CoR members are strong allies for a broad, genuinely inclusive, transparent, geographically and politically balanced debate on the future of Europe.

The President of the European Committee of the Regions Apostolos Tzitzikostas who leads the CoR delegation to the Plenary of the Conference and attends the meetings of the Executive Board, said: “L ocal elected politicians and Members of the European Parliament share their political nature and their special relationship with citizens. We are all elected by our citizens, even if at different levels of governance. I trust that we also share the hope for a model of European Democracy which will become stronger if all its democratically elected assemblies and governments are taken in due consideration. A mayor of a City, a governor of a Region, a Member of the European Parliament or a regional Parliament are all European politicians. Through our respective political families, we can easily team up within the Conference to make emerge the citizens’ call for a Union closer to them, respectful of the principle of subsidiarity and forward-looking in reacting to new challenges at global and local level. “

Guy Verhofstadt, Member of the European Parliament, co-Chair of the Executive Board and coordinator of the EP delegation to the Conference on the Future of Europe, commented: ” The #CoFoE is like a relay race. Citizens participating in panels will start it by defining their wishes and recommendations. Then, over several plenary sessions, they will hand over the baton and we will formulate concrete proposals for reform based on their recommendations. The final stage of this race is to approve and implement these reforms through our democratic institutions. CoR will be a useful player through its members based in cities and regions throughout the European Union.”

Manfred Weber, President of the EPP Group in the European Parliament and member of the Executive Board for the Conference on the Future of Europe said: “ A decade of major changes is ahead of us. On climate change, jobs and growth, digitalisation, social affairs, demographics and migration, we cannot wait for the next crisis to prepare ourselves for the future. We need to ask ourselves whether the European Union is now structurally fit to provide the answers for the challenges we face. What is sure is that we need to build a Europe which has a real capacity to act but also a more democratic Europe, closer to its citizens, closer to the municipalities and regions. The CoR, through its elected members, has a crucial role to play in this regard .”

Iratxe Garcia Perez, President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament and member of the Executive Board for the Conference on the Future of Europe added: “The Conference on the Future of Europe is an opportunity we cannot miss to re-connect with citizens and know which kind of Union they want. The EU is not built only through the institutions, but it’s built every day from very town and city, and all administrative levels have a role, and they are all important. The diversity of our villages, towns and religions is Europe’s richness. This is why this conference must reach places that are far from the Brussels bubble, and listen to all voices. Because we want a more participative Europe, with more equality and solidarity, and a more feminist Europe.”

The CoR delegation to the Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe will:

– participate to the meetings of the Plenary and of the working groups of the Conference;

– provide written contributions, including with support of the High Level Group on European Democracy , an independent advisory body of seven wise men and women chaired by former European Council President Herman van Rompuy whose mission is to support the CoR’s political and institutional role by providing strategic political analysis with focus on local and regional aspects. The results of the CoR citizens’ survey on the Conference on the Future of Europe will also provide input for contributions;

– participate to and organise dialogues and debates in their constituencies and report back about these dialogues, in cooperation with European Movement International or European Youth Forum, but also with other EU-institutions like the European Commission’s Europe Direct network and the European Parliament’s BELE project. Moreover, transnational citizens dialogues will be organised in Autumn in cooperation with the Bertelsmann foundation ;

– build alliances of like-minded delegates in the Conference to jointly promote recommendations that are of relevance to regions, cities and villages across the EU;

– mobilise its networks like the associations of local and regional authorities across the EU, the network of former CoR members and the newly launched network of EU local councillors , the RegHub network and the Cohesion Alliance network in order to encourage local and regional politicians to organise citizens’ debates The results of these consultations will be reported at the Conference Plenary.

The CoR will present its final contribution to the Conference at the 9th European Summit of Regions and Cities , to be held during the French Presidency of the Council on 3-4 March 2022.

Background:

The Conference on the Future of Europe was launched on 9 May 2021 in Strasbourg. It is a unique exercise of dialogue with citizens from all across the European Union that aims at engaging them in reflections and let them contribute with recommendations on how to shape the European Union in the near future, in particular on 9 topics : climate change and environment; health; economy, social justice and jobs; EU in the world; values and rights, rule of law, security; digital transformation; European democracy; migration; education, culture, youth and sport.

For this purpose, a multilingual digital platform allows people from different Member States to engage with one another and discuss their proposals, either during dedicated events or directly on the platform. The ideas and recommendations resulting from citizens’ dialogue have to be put on this platform to be taken into consideration for further discussions. The contributions and ideas will be discussed during citizens assemblies that will meet 14 times. Representatives of these assemblies will put the contributions forward to the Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe that will meet 6 times until the end of the consultation process.

The Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe is composed of 432 members: 108 representatives of the European Parliament, 54 from the Council, 3 from the European Commission, 108 representatives of national parliaments, 80 representatives from European Citizens’ Panels (a third of whom are younger than 25), the President of the European Youth Forum, 27 representatives of National Citizens’ Panels, 18 representatives each for the CoR and the EESC, 8 representatives each for social partners and civil society.

The Executive Board for the Conference on the Future of Europe is composed of three representatives and up to four observers from each EU’s institution. The European Commission is represented by Vice-Presidents Maroš Šefčovič, Dubravka Šuica and Věra Jourová; the Council represented by the rotating presidency (Slovenia in the 2nd part of 2021, followed by France); the European Parliament (represented by Guy Verhofstadt, Manfred Weber, Iratxe Garcia Perez. The CoR is invited to the meeting of the Executive Board. The Executive Board oversees the works of the Conference, and prepares the meetings of the Conference Plenary, including citizens’ inputs and their follow-up. It reports on a regular basis to the Joint Presidency of the Conference (Presidents of the Commission, of the European Parliament and of the European Council). After the discussion, conclusions reached by the plenary on a consensual basis will be submitted to the Executive Board. The Executive Board will draft a report in full transparency and in collaboration with the Conference Plenary, and based on the conclusions of the latter. The report will be published in the multilingual digital platform and submitted to the Joint Presidency.

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