"We should support those citizens who want to move forward and that are openly discussing in theCoFoE with no taboos. We should reform the treaties to ensure a new sovereign, democratic and federal Europe."
MEP Brando Benifei, outgoing President of the Spinelli Group
1. CoFoE 2nd Plenary
This past weekend, the Conference Plenary discussed reports from the European Citizens' Panels, national panels and events, the EYE and the Platform.
This Conference Plenary meeting represented two major milestones in the context of the Conference. On the one hand, the 80 representatives of the European Citizens' Panels that have been selected from the pool of 800 that convened in Strasbourg in September and October took their seats. On the other hand, for the first time, the Plenary discussed citizens' contributions stemming from the different components of the Conference as they currently stand, while deliberations, events, and online debate continue.
The Plenary comprises representatives from the European Parliament (108), the Council (54, or two per member state) and the European Commission (3), as well as from all national Parliaments (108) on an equal footing, and citizens (108). As part of the citizens’ component, representatives from the European Citizens’ Panels (80), representatives of national events or national citizens’ panels (27, or one per member state) and the President of the European Youth Forum take part in the deliberations. In addition, representatives from the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee (18 from each), elected representatives from regional and local authorities (6 from each), and representatives of the social partners (12) and civil society (8) participate as members. For the first time, representatives from the Western Balkans participated as key partners.
On Friday, the Plenary working groups, composed of representatives from all components of the Conference Plenary (incl. MEPs, national parliamentarians, government representatives, the Commission, social partners, civil society, and citizens) met for a constitutive meeting. On Saturday, the Plenary meeting was opened by the Co-Chairs of the Conference's Executive Board, Guy Verhofstadt (European Parliament), State Secretary Gašper Dovžan on behalf of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU and European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica. The discussions revolved around:
- a presentation with first impressions from the European Citizens' Panels by representatives from each Panel and by the Co-Chairs;
- a report by the representatives from national panels and events;
- a report from the European Youth Event; and
- a presentation by the Co-Chairs of the interim reports and state of play on the Multilingual Digital Platform.
The Co-Chairs of the Conference made the following statements from Strasbourg:
Guy Verhofstadt (European Parliament), said: “The enthusiasm in the Citizens’ Panels is great, expectations are high, the formula is working. Now the Plenary has to find answers to the issues raised, in the form of a shared vision of Europe’s future and concrete deliverables on how we reform the European Union. EU politics have to rise to the occasion.”
Gašper Dovžan (Presidency of the Council) commented that: “Tens of thousands of citizens continue to discuss the future of Europe in the European and national panels and events, as well as on the Platform. The Plenary will debate and bring forward their recommendations in the areas that matter most to them, without a predetermined outcome. This is the first Plenary under the Slovenian Presidency of the Council and we were very pleased to welcome representatives from our Western Balkans partners as key stakeholders with whom we share responsibility for the future of the EU.”
Dubravka Šuica (Vice-President of the European Commission) stated: "This is a historic moment where, for the first time, citizens deliberate on a par with their elected representatives at all levels. Bringing citizens to the core of European policymaking will reinforce our representative democracies, as we set sail towards our common future.”
A little less positive was the balance drawn by the citizens who participated in the plenary, who complained about the lack of concreteness of the working groups - with the exception of the one on health, chaired by European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič and judged very positive - and to have known only the previous day what the order of business would be.
The plenary itself was the subject of criticism, due to the shorter time allowed for speeches by citizens compared to those of politicians - many of whom, moreover, did not participate in the afternoon session - and the generic nature of many of the speeches heard in the classroom. The complaints were expressed directly in the hemicycle through the words of a Dutch delegate, who asked for more space to speak and received the applause of all present.
A position that Verhofstadt seems to have taken into account. In the press conference at the end of the assembly, the representative of the EU Parliament said that "the central role of citizens will become even more evident in the next plenaries, when they present their recommendations and proposals and others will be able to react on the proposals".
Verhofstadt added that "the most important novelty of the Conference is the active part of citizens in decision-making processes", and that the mechanism used could "become permanent", as a demonstration "of the fact that participatory and representative democracy can work together".
2. UEF IN THE PLENARY
UEF was represented in the Plenary of the CoFoE with our President and MEP Sandro GOZI, Vice-President and MEP Doménec RUIZ DEVESA and Secretary General Anna ECHTERHOFF.
"Citizens are asking for a more federal and social Europe. They are calling to remove the veto in theEU Council, to strengthenEP powers, a Pan-European constituency, etc. Let’s do not disappoint europeans.” said UEF Vice-President and MEP Doménec RUIZ DEVESA in the Plenary.
"We must strengthen European democracy by granting more powers to the EP. We need: a uniform electoral law, the creation of transnational lists leading to the formation of real European parties and legislative initiative for the EP." highlighted UEF Secretary General Anna ECHTERHOFF
"We should support those citizens who want to move forward and that are openly discussing in the CoFoE with no taboos. We should reform the treaties to ensure a new sovereign, democratic and federal Europe." added MEPBrando Benifei, outgoing President of the Spinelli Group.
"We all share responsibility for making the#CoFoE its Platform known. We need to develop a common consciousness to have the Conference awaken, focusing on a few concrete proposals to ensure greater effectiveness for Europe & its values." said European Union Deutschland Secretary General Christian MOSS.
3. SPINELLI GROUP CAUCUS
The Spinelli Group (SG) caucus meeting took Place last Friday in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The caucus should serve to coordinate and defend the federalist and pan-European interests in a transversal way in all the WGs, and make them ambitious, with concrete proposals and conclusions. To this end, the SG distributed a Manifesto defending the main federalist ideas. As a cross-cutting group with different ideas, the SG will join forces to focus on the points in common and to ensure that the inclusiveness of the group is strengthened, without neglecting coordination between the political groups. This is the strength of the GS, the only cross-party, transnational and pan-European group.
During the caucus meeting, the change of the Spinelli Group rotatory Presidency took place. We’re happy to announce that Daniel Freund will be the new President of the Spinelli Group on behalf of Greens/EFA. UEF thanks Brando Benifei for his amazing work this year as our first President for this mandate!
4. UEF LIVESTREAM INTERVIEW
Right after the 2nd CoFoE Plenary, aLive Stream analysis from a federalist perspective was scheduled with the President of UEF, MEP Sandro GOZI. The interview was conducted by Nana WALZER. The President shared his impression of the Plenary commented on the topics and working priorities the Federalists addressed in over the weekend session.
5. ANGELA MERKEL AND THE CoFoE
The Conference on the Future of Europe, which now-outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested could be the place to solve Poland’s rule of law issues, has been paid little attention. But that does not mean those attending have not been busy.
“The Conference on the Future of Europe is actually a good place to discuss,” said Merkel as she entered the European Council on Thursday (21 October).
She also suggested that the CoFoE is a good place to talk about “how the individual members envisage the European Union”. Despite this, even though the conference had its second plenary on 23 October, it failed to make many waves.
6. NEXT STEPS
The next two meetings of the Plenary will be held on 17-18 December and 21-22 January to discuss the recommendations of the four European citizens’ panels that will wrap up their work by then. Co-chair Verhofstadt underlined that these sessions will have a different setup, with more time for the representatives of the panels to present their conclusions and a debate with other Plenary members on the concrete topics.
In the meantime, citizens’ contributions to the Conference will continue to flow in:
- the European Citizens’ Panels will meet online in November, and the first two will finalise their recommendations and present them in Plenary in December;
- the Multilingual Digital Platform remains available for citizens’ ideas and events, which will become part of the third report due for December, and which will feed into the last sessions of European Citizens’ Panels and the upcoming meetings of the Conference Plenary;
*Feel free to contact UEF Secretariat if you may have any questions on the CoFoE or the Digital Platform: firstname.lastname@example.org