The Conference on the Future of Europe launched Sunday (9 May) in Strasbourg can only succeed if local and regional communities are involved, the European Committee of the Regions has argued. EURACTIV France reports.
As the presidents of the main EU institutions opened the Conference on the Future of Europe on Europe Day Sunday, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) organised a local dialogue in Strasbourg to discuss how to involve local communities in the conference and strengthen their role in Europe’s future, according to an official statement.
“The success of this conference presupposes the participation of all,” stressed French Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, Joël Giraud. “It is fundamental […] to fully involve local elected representatives and local authorities in the debate on the future of Europe,” he added.
According to the CoR’s president, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the European project needs to be relaunched by ‘improving its democratic functioning”.
“For me, our ‘house of European democracy’ is built on solid foundations – the regional and local authorities – solid walls – the member states – and a protective roof – the European Union. The conference offers a unique opportunity to strengthen them, but it can only work if it goes beyond Brussels and the capitals,” he added.
Those taking part in the dialogue – representatives of EU institutions, local and youth associations and local and regional leaders – have backed an open letter calling on local and regional leaders to contribute to the conference by organising dialogues in their regions, towns and villages and by appointing European affairs advisors in their political assemblies.
“The democratic and inclusive Union we want needs to be built on Europe’s foundation: its regions, cities and villages,” the letter reads. Strengthening the conference’s legitimacy would require those closest to the citizens to get involved.
The conference’s territorial dimension should also make it possible to forge links with Europe’s youth, said Frédéric Bierry, president of the Alsace European community and representative of the Assembly of French Departments, during CoR’s local dialogue.
“I hope that the conference on the future of Europe will enable all young people to experience Europe personally, that they will have a concrete and positive experience of it”, the president of the Alsace European community said.
According to him, “this very special year, which will see events being held throughout Europe, in all its territories, should offer as many people as possible a moment, an experience that belongs to them alone.”
“This is how young people will become aware of being part of Europe,” he added.
The CoR has already committed to organising a series of local dialogues in different EU countries and is planning to hold a series of debates on the democratic functioning of the EU throughout the conference.
On Wednesday (12 May), the CoR, together with the Bertelsmann Foundation, will launch innovative participatory processes and online tools to host citizens’ panels with the aim of “making the voice of cities and regions heard”.