The Conference on the Future of Europe will not lead to changes in the EU’s treaties because there is no consensus among member states for this, a Czech expert told EURACTIV.cz.
The conference is a unique exercise allowing European citizens to express their opinion and make proposals on the EU’s future policies and functioning.
Outcomes of the conference are expected to be partially implemented by the Czech Republic, which takes over the rotating EU Council presidency in July.
According to Zuzana Stuchlíková, a Czech analyst from the EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy, opening the EU treaties is also highly unlikely due to the Ukraine war and unstable geopolitical situation. On top of that, the Czech Republic does not favour EU treaty change.
“It will be crucial which recommendations will make it into the final conclusions of the conference and which demands will be put on the table of European politicians,” Stuchlíková explained to EURACTIV.cz, adding that it is not clear yet what the EU institutions are planning to do with citizens’ recommendations.
“The dilemma about the form of the outcomes has been with the Conference from the very beginning and even a year after the start we do not know how the Council will take the recommendations,” she said.
According to EU law expert Alberto Alemanno, as much as 12% of the 178 proposals could require treaty changes. He, along with law students from several universities categorised the proposals as to what level of action they require.
Twenty three do not need any action, 21 require action on a member state level, the EU can implement 113, and 21 require an EU treaty change.
“All recommendations falling under the latter categories entail either institutional reform (4) or the transfer of new competences in welfare (7), education (5), health care (2), taxation (2), and energy (1)” explains the expert.
However, calculations from the Commission’s Vice President Věra Jourová found that as much as half of the proposals would require treaty change.
The prospect of changing treaties could potentially cause disquiet in the Commission who previously said they were unwilling to undertake such actions.
However, Guy Verhofstadt, the conference’s chair, told journalists that “I cannot see a situation in which the Council, the Commission or the Parliament declare that they do not follow up some citizen’s recommendations. The task for the plenary will be to react to and accommodate each of them. There is no escape from this”.
Asides from the treaty issue, citizens have expressed concerns that there is a lack of political commitment to the process leading to fears their proposals will not be adequately followed up on.
A letter sent to organisers, seen by EURACTIV asked politicians to take meetings more seriously and attend sessions when required.
In the letter, citizens say that it is not possible “to have a constructive debate within the plenary when its members are not in the room”. They called out those who do not come and those who “leave the room right after they give a statement”.
Participants reported that 100 out of 108 citizens attended a recent plenary, taking time off work or school to do so. Conversely, of the 340 political members of the plenary, only 90 were present.
The conference started in May 2021 and will culminate in May 2022.