From May onwards, hundreds of EU citizens will be invited to reflect on Europe’s future at a conference that will debate European policy priorities in an attempt to introduce direct democracy in EU decision-making. EURACTIV France reports.
After a heated debate between the leaders of the different political groups in the European Parliament, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt of the centrist Renew Europe Group finally won his case. He will be chairing the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Even though French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of this consolation prize as early as last summer, it was not easy to snatch it from the conservative European People’s Party (EPP).
As it is supposed to take the EU out of its credibility crisis, MEPs are very interested in this consultation exercise, and some were even hoping to steer the process as they consider it to be one of Europe’s “top jobs”.
And it appears that the conservatives (EPP) only conceded such spots to the left (S&D) and Renew Europe because Renew agreed to support Manfred Weber’s (EPP) bid to take over the Parliament’s presidency in two years.
In terms of substance, France has high expectations for this new consultation process, whose scope should be different from previous consultations because it is being so rigorously organised.
This is evidenced by a European Parliament resolution due to be debated on Wednesday (15 January), which promises to open the Conference on the Future of Europe, envisaged to last two years, on 9 May 2020.
“This is the first time that the principle of citizen participation, real participation, could be accepted at the European level,” said MEP Pascal Durand (Renew), one of the supporters of the proposal.
Durand also insisted that the participants, representative of Europe’s diversity, will be brought together in a plenary assembly after so-called ‘thematic agoras‘ have decided on various topics.
The MEP also insisted that “the idea is to represent the ideas of Europeans, not to defend national positions,” as the issue of democratic participation is a permanent concern.
Several agoras for 200 to 300 citizens
According to the resolution presented to the Parliament, each thematic citizen’s agora on the separate policy priorities will comprise 200 to 300 citizens (representative in terms of age, gender, social origin and level of education), with a minimum of three per member state.
And independent institutions from each member state, which are not affiliated to the governments or lobbies, will organise the selection.
Youth agoras will also be organised during the debate and at the end of the conference. Agora originally denotes the physical place where citizens in ancient Greece gathered to decide on their city’s governance and laws.
The Conference for the Future of Europe will assemble 2,000 people because in addition to the citizens, representatives of all the European institutions, as well as the national parliaments, will also be present.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]