The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique democratic exercise and must be thoroughly followed up

(Source: European Economic and Social Committee)

At the June plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee, EESC president Christa Schweng and European Commission vice-president Dubravka Šuica agreed that, after a year of debate on the future of the EU, it was now vital to provide Europe’s people with specific follow-up measures.

The collective efforts of civil society organisations over the past year have paid off and the Conference on the Future of Europe has managed to deliver meaningful results on issues of concern for Europeans. With this message, the President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Christa Schweng welcomed Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography, to the EESC plenary session on 15 June 2022.

49 proposals were adopted, based on citizens’ recommendations and after contributions from all stakeholders. They include many forward-looking objectives, such as explicitly empowering the EESC as a facilitator and guarantor of participatory democracy activities, said Ms Schweng.

She added that the challenge was now two-fold. Firstly, to live up to this call and find the best possible way to support structured dialogue with civil society organisations. Secondly, to follow up on the Conference and ensure that this exercise does not backfire and feed resentment towards the EU and its institutions. On this point, the EESC put forward specific ideas: the feedback should be thorough, simple, transparent and in the form of an online dashboard and a public screening.

Ms Šuica highlighted that The Committee is an essential part of the democratic ecosystem which is fit for the future. Your work reinforces trust and reduces the gap between citizens and institutions. What is now vital is that we provide Europeans with feedback from this unique democratic exercise. The Commission will always be on the side of those who want to reform the European Union to make it work better. However, treaty change should not be an end in itself; there is much that can and will need to be done under the existing treaties.

Announcing the follow-up conference which would take place in the autumn of 2022, she said that the event will put a seal of legitimacy on the entire process, because democracy is precious and we can never take it for granted, as the tragic events in Ukraine are reminding us. Our focus must be to continue developing democracy and now we are making our democracy fit for the future.

During the ensuing debate, the president of the EESC’s Employers’ Group, Stefano Mallia stressed that the Conference on the Future of Europe showed how participatory and representative democracy could work well together.

Oliver Röpke, president of the EESC’s Workers’ Group, was pleased to note that despite different political views, the Conference showed unity on the idea of strengthening Europe and ensuring it could cope with the crises it faced.

On behalf of the EESC’s Civil Society Organisations’ Group, its president Séamus Boland pointed out that the final recommendations of the Conference needed genuine follow-up producing tangible policy results, and that the Commission should integrate the outcomes into its 2023 work programme.

Throughout the Conference, from 9 May 2021 to 9 May 2022, the EESC worked hard in all the Conference bodies as the guardian and vehicle of the voice of European organised civil society. The Committee supported the roll-out of 75 events, 33 at national level and 42 at central level, and 60% of them produced reports on the Conference platform, gathering more than 7600 participants and making it possible to encode 60 new ideas on the Conference platform.

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