EU member states gave the ‘green light’ on Wednesday (3 February) to the format proposed by the Portuguese presidency for the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is due to start next May, European sources told Lusa.pt.
The endorsement took place at a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels and puts an end to a long stalemate surrounding this event, which was supposed to start in May 2020 but was postponed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and also because of differences between European institutions, notably on who should chair the forum.
According to the same sources, EU envoys agreed on the format the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU suggested, that the Conference should be under the authority of the presidents of the three institutions – Council, European Commission and European Parliament – with the ‘assistance’ of an Executive Committee.
The Conference, a two-year discussion forum with multiple events across Europe, begins on 9 May, Europe Day, the idea being that the ‘starting pistol’ will be fired in Strasbourg, France, if the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic allows it.
During the presentation of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU to the European Parliament in Brussels on 19 January, Prime Minister António Costa called for the Conference on the Future of Europe to be held “as soon as possible”, “focusing on the wishes and anxieties of citizens” rather than on the EU institutions.
“We need the Conference on the Future of Europe as a forum for debate between the member states and our citizens on what we want to build together as a Union in the future. […] Chairing the presidency of the Council [of the EU], we will do everything we can to launch the conference as soon as possible so that we can conclude it with an open and enlightening debate,” Costa said at the time.
The Conference aims to address the internal and external challenges facing Europe and the new societal and transnational challenges that were not fully foreseen when the Lisbon Treaty was adopted, by creating a platform for discussion between citizens and the European institutions.