The Time is Now - 13/2022

“We want the CoFoE to open up a new phase, a phase of participation, but also of change. To change the rules, because we have seen in this year and a half that there cannot be taboos. European democracy must be more efficient and effective.”

EP President SASSOLI 

1. Citizens’ panel proposals on climate change, environment and health

Citizens proposed ways to improve health, fight climate change and protect the environment at a forum held in Warsaw on 7-9 January.

As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Warsaw hosted some 200 Europeans on 7-9 January 2022, who came for the third and final session of the European citizens’ panel dedicated to climate change, environment and health. Due to the current Covid-19 situation, some panel members joined remotely.

Panellists discussed their recommendations in five areas:

  • Better ways of living
  • Protecting our environment and our health
  • Redirecting our economy
  • Redirecting overproduction and overconsumption
  • Caring for all

Participants voted on 64 recommendations: 51 were approved, while 13 did not reach the required 70% support threshold.

Read the full list of approved recommendations of this panel.

2. The citizen's proposal for transnational lists divides MEPs

The proposal to establish transnational lists for the elections to the European Parliament, divided this Wednesday the MEPs who analyzed the citizen recommendations of the CoFoE.

The citizens set in their conclusions the desire for an election to the Parliament, where voters could vote for different parties of European level, including candidates from several Member States.

Guy Verhofstadt, saw behind this point a demand to implement transnational lists. However, the EPP MEP Paulo Rangel accused Verhofstadt of carrying out "an abusive interpretation" of the citizen recommendations, since, according to him, the conclusions of the CoFoE do not explicitly mention the pan-European lists.

On the other hand, Renew, Greens and Social Democrats were in favor of moving towards the pan-European lists and, in addition, UEF Vice-President and S&D MEP Domènec Ruiz Devesa also valued very positively the proposal to reopen the debate on the European Constitution, set in the conclusions of the CoFoE citizen panels.

3. Ten issues to watch in 2022

This EPRS publication seeks to put into context and offer insights on 10 key issues and policy areas that have the potential to feature prominently in public debate and on the political agenda of the European Union in 2022. Issue number 8 talks about the outcomes of the CoFoE. 

If Treaty change is not on the horizon in the short term, then a scenario of 'soft' reforms could be considered, whereby some changes could be introduced by leveraging the full potential of the current Treaties. This would mean exploring the unused potential of the Treaties in several fields, from overcoming unanimity through qualified majority voting, using passerelle clauses to strengthen the EU dimension of European elections, or improving decision-making on the common foreign and security policy. In this respect, Parliament has already contributed in 2017 with a resolution offering a useful starting point, proposing for instance to limit the intergovernmental approach, make more frequent use of its own right of legislative initiative, reduce the number of Council configurations, and transform Council into a genuine legislative chamber. A mechanism to follow up on the conference's conclusions is also a possibility, in order to bring in 'soft' reforms.

One possible innovation is the introduction of a permanent participatory mechanism to involve citizens in EU decision-making beyond the traditional electoral period.

4. What’s Next?

The recommendations of the European Citizens' Panels will be presented and discussed at the Conference Plenary, where the Conference's final proposals will continue to be shaped.

The next Conference Plenary is set to take place on 21-22 January in Strasbourg. In the meantime, the Plenary Working Groups met on Friday 17 December in remote format to continue their preparatory work. Citizens across Europe can also continue to take part in the Conference through the Multilingual Digital Platform.

The remaining European Citizens' Panels will also be adopting their recommendations in the near future, in the following areas:

  • Panel 1 - A stronger economy, social justice and jobs / Education, culture, youth, sport / Digital transformation (to be held in Dublin, Ireland)
  • Panel 4 - EU in the world / Migration (to be held in Maastricht, The Netherlands).

5. Opinion articles and Papers

  • EURACTIV: Democratization of Democracy: The Conference on the Future of Europe as a Role Model? In the recent years there has been much talk about the erosion of liberal democracy, which has been manifested in various disturbing developments: from decreasing trust of citizens in the institutions of representative democracy and decreasing voter turnout to the growing political and societal polarization and the rise of the populist radical Right that promotes ethnic nationalism and attacks civil rights and individual liberties. In general, these developments have often been portrayed as signs of citizens’ dissatisfaction with democracy. - Filip Milacic is a senior researcher at the Friedrich ­Ebert­ Stiftung’s office for “The Democracy of the Future” in Vien­na. 
  • EURACTIV: Our time to shape Europe Taking into consideration the crises that the European Union has been through in the last decade, it’s obvious that the dialogue concerning its future is more than required. In any case, such a process shall now include the “voices” and concerns of the EU citizens and not just be a product of the EU institutions and member states. - Angelanna Andreou, Lefteris Vasilopoulos and Pinelopi Katsigianni are members of JEF Piraeus-Athens.
  • EURACTIV: Reforming Europe means getting out of the Brussels bubble  Responding to the democratic crisis is just as important as tackling the climate emergency. This is why we fought for the Conference on the Future of Europe, despite the reluctance of those who fear consulting citizens on the European issue, write Guy Verhofstadt and Pascal Durand. - Guy Verhofstadt and Pascal Durand are members of the European Parliament for the Renew Europe group.
  • GEOPOLITIQUE: Citizen Power Europe The CoFoE could be the beginning of a process that values the creation of democratic citizen-centric ecosystems, inhabited by participatory processes increasing participants’ sense of efficacy in politics while addressing the most intractable issues of our times. In this new paper written by Alberto Alemanno and Kalypso Nicolaidis they explain why. 
  • EU LAW LIVE: Op-Ed: “The Future of the Rule of Law in Europe” by Jakub Jaraczewski Protection of the rule of law in Europe requires going beyond what we already have in the EU rule of law toolbox and beyond merely Brussels. We need to expand and improve. We should start with listening to what people who live in the EU have to say. The recent European Citizen’s Panel‘European democracy / Values and rights, rule of law, security’ organised as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe proposed two excellent recommendations.
  • HUFFINGTON POST: La “congiuntura astrale” mai così favorevole per cambiare l'Ue Conditions for the success of the operation are the electoral victory of Macron, the permanence of Draghi at Palazzo Chigi, and their triangulation with Scholz
  • BRUSSELS TIMES: A frank assessment of the Conference on the Future of Europe At the first meeting of EU ambassadors of the New Year, the CoFoE was not even on the agenda. As France currently holds the EU presidency and CoFoE was the brainchild of President Emmanuel Macron this was a surprising omission.
  • EURACTIV: Leadership in times of crisis starts by fixing the EU’s democratic deficit As we enter 2022, it is 30 years since Citizenship of the EU was first introduced during the Maastricht Treaty negotiations. This led to the creation of the first transnational citizenship, affording all EU citizens with rights, freedoms and legal protections, write Suzana Carp and Justin Goshorn.
  • EURACTIV: European communities and their view on the future of Europe The Conference on the Future of Europe is a chance to address the most prominent issues in Europe’s regions and translate them into proposals for the future of the bloc, regional stakeholders say.
  • EURACTIV: Local communities mull EU treaty change in bloc-wide democracy experiment The success of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) depends on the geographical spread and depth of the debate and proper follow-up, EU stakeholders warn.