Conference on the Future of Europe: EU overhaul in the making?

A participant carry an EU flag during a rally titled 'Pulse of Europe' in Frankfurt Main, Germany 04 March 2018. [EPA-EFE/ARMANDO BABANI]

In 2020, hundreds of EU citizens were meant to 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 over the course of the next two years.

The conference, a brain-child of the European Liberals (Renew) and French President Emmanuel Macron, was meant to discuss with all EU institutions, member states and EU citizens what a future EU should look like, 17 years after the last European Convention.

But while the European Parliament launched the debate on the Future of Europe conference earlier this year in January and outlined its position ahead of talks with the Commission and Council, the latter has remained hesitant to kick off the process.

While many view this as an attempt to blur the conference with a vague mandate, in particular, to prevent institutional reforms, member states insist the conference is not a convention and results should instead only be summarized in a joint declaration, instead of direct legislative initiatives.

On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has overturned the schedule for the project before it  even started.

This event report examines what obstacles lie on the way and what topics could be shaping the discussion.

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