"Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises"
Jean Monnet, 1976
1. Ukraine and the future of Europe
War has returned to the heart of Europe. In this dark hour of our history, which we never wanted to relive, we stand by the Ukrainian people. Their freedom is our freedom and their struggle is our struggle, because there can be no peace from oppression.
This is not only an attack on Ukraine, it is also a war for the core principles of our democracies and fundamental European values and a thread on the security of Europe, the international order, peace and democracy.
The return of the demonic face of nationalism reminds us that the European peace project was born from the ashes of a terrible war and warns us that we can no longer wait to bring it to its conclusion. We need, now more than ever, a political Union.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has injected the EU with the overdue resolve it needed to truly face up to the adverse geopolitics of its surroundings, brushing aside any remaining taboos and prejudices.
In the span of seven days, the bloc has managed to move past its drawn-out internal squabbles, its notoriously convoluted bureaucracy and its international reputation for caution and moderation, and has instead demonstrated the self-confidence and boldness that its critics claimed it lacked.
Decisions of enormous consequence have been taken at record speed with ironclad unity, even if some of the sanctions slapped on Russia will inevitably ricochet and damage the bloc's own economy, still reeling from the COVID-19 upheaval.
For the first time in its history, the bloc will finance the purchase of lethal weapons for countries that are under attack, a quantum leap for a union that was originally created to defend peace. Germany will too contribute: the country has reversed its historic policy and will now send weapons to conflict zones.
Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war are being welcomed with open arms by the same member states that have spent the last seven years bickering about a common migration policy based on shared solidarity.
Propaganda tools are being shut down, financial assets worth billions are being frozen and planes are forbidden to fly over EU territory, effectively blocking Russia from physically entering the West.
Even a far-fetched Ukrainian bid for EU membership now seems to be a realistic goal within reach.
Now is the time to politically strengthen the EU with military and energetic autonomy, a federal EU whose foreign policy is not subject to individual veto threats.
2. #moreEUROPEnow - We stand with Ukraine - Join the first Europe wide online demonstrations
We are delighted to invite you at #moreEUROPEnow, the first Europe wide online demonstration.
The UEF has organised the first European online demonstration, together with other civil society organisations and citizens, to express solidarity with the Ukrainian people and call for a federal, sovereign and democratic Europe.
WHEN: Saturday 5 March 2022, 19:30 - 21:30 online.
Special speakers from all over Europe will join to make political statements followed by poetry and music.
This is an excellent opportunity to promote democratic values and a strong, united Europe in the light of the CoFoE, showing our support with Ukraine.
Share this message with your contacts with the hashtag #moreEUROPEnow
3. Citizens put forward ideas for the future of Europe’s economy, jobs, education
The final meeting of a series of citizens’ panels saw Europeans formulate ideas on how the EU should promote quality jobs, a healthy economy and social justice.
A panel of 200 people randomly selected from across the EU gathered in Dublin on 25-27 February to adopt their recommendations for EU measures on the economy, jobs, education, culture, young people and digital transformation.
It was the third and final meeting of the panel, which provides people's input for the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Some participants joined remotely due to Covid-19.
The panellists came up with 48 recommendations grouped under five main topics:
- Working in Europe
- An economy for the future
- A just society
- Learning in Europe
- An ethical and safe digital transformation
In a discussion at the start of the panel, citizens expressed shock at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the return of war on the continent. In a gesture of solidarity and support, they posed for a group photo with the Ukrainian flag.
Sustainable economy and quality jobs
The recommendations highlighted the need for a shift in the economy towards sustainability. Europe should get rid of plastic containers and planned obsolescence of products, further increase the use of renewable energy and reward companies that lower the environmental costs of production.
Panel participants also demanded a common EU labelling system for food products and tax harmonisation with taxes paid in each country where a company sells products.
The EU should introduce a minimum wage to ensure a similar quality of living across member states, the panellists recommended. Companies should be incentivised to keep jobs - especially those that allow working remotely - in the EU and not relocate them to lower-cost countries.
Digital training and soft skills such as listening to each other, encouraging dialogue and critical thinking should be taught in schools, as they would be critical for the future job market.
Participants recommended guarantees for social and health care for the elderly and said minimum pensions should be above the poverty line.
Other demands included access to decent social housing, equal family rights in all EU countries and rules for assisted dying.
Education and learning
Studying foreign languages should start in kindergarten, as it makes other countries and cultures more accessible, panellists said. They also called for English to be a core subject in primary schools across the EU.
They said that the dangers of digitalisation and the internet should be taught in elementary schools and that the EU should develop a platform with teaching materials on climate change and environmental issues.
The EU should strengthen its capacity to fight cybercrime and illegal content, invest in high-quality digital infrastructure and work to improve education on disinformation and fake news, the citizens said.
They also called for better enforcement of data protection rules.
Panel participants want further measures to fight disinformation, including rules forcing social media companies to come up with algorithms assessing the trustworthiness of content and the establishment of an independent platform that rates information from traditional media.
Final set of European Citizens’ Panel recommendations
All four Panels have now finalised their recommendations. The three preceding ones were:
- on European democracy, values and rights, rule of law and security;
- on climate change, environment and health; and
- on EU in the world / Migration.
The first two sets were debated at the Conference Plenary of 21-22 January, whereas the other two are expected to be debated in Strasbourg on 11-12 March. The Plenary’s final proposals will be presented to the Executive Board of the Conference in the spring.
4. European Parliament Delegation to the CoFoE
A delegation of Ukrainian citizens will be invited to speak at the next plenary session of the CoFoE on 12 March, the three Co-Presidents agreed on Wednesday, with the backing of the MEPs who will attend.
MEPs discussed the conclusions of the economic, employment and social justice panel and those of the defence, foreign policy and migration panel on Wednesday.
The war provoked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine marked the course of the session and CoFoE co-chair Guy Verhofstadt noted that the final phase of the Conference "is going to take place in a world that is quite different from the world in which this initiative began".
A majority of MEPs supported Verhofstadt's proposal to invite a group of Ukrainian citizens to the next CoFoE meeting, with the aim, he said, of showing them the "solidarity" of the EU institutions.
Last February, the citizens who attended the final meeting of this panel to draw up its final recommendations decided to exclude the proposal to create a common European army from the final list, as it did not reach the minimum threshold of 70% of the votes required by the CoFoE regulation, with the aim of promoting consensus.
You can watch the session here.
5. What’s next
Representatives of the panel will present and debate the recommendations at the next Conference plenary on 11-12 March 2022 in Strasbourg.
There will be two plenaries in March and two in April, where the conclusions of the Conference will be discussed. The final outcome will be presented in a report to the presidents of the Parliament, Council, and European Commission, who have committed to following up on the proposals for EU action.
6. Articles & Papers
EURACTIV: This Conference can still go either way
The CoFoE is at a crossroads. The decisive question is: will the Conference Plenary be able and willing to take charge of this Conference, develop a parliament-like dynamic and include perspectives previously excluded, or will it remain an exclusionary political talking shop and risk enabling the extreme right? Writes Daniela Vancic and Maarten de Groot.
The grand rhetoric surrounding the CoFoE when it was launched in 2021 did little to overcome political realities. Critics claim that process-related problems and a lack of visibility have left the Conference in the doldrums. Yet, there is still time for political interest to match the enthusiasm of the citizens actively engaged in the Conference and for this initiative to end with tangible results.
One of the priorities of the CoFoEe is “EU in the world”. The Ukraine crisis poses many questions about what is and what should be the EU role in the world. - Roberto Castaldi
Young people engaged in the CoFoE want politicians to make bold decisions about Europe while taking future generations into account, according to Viola Bianchetti from Europe’s largest network of youth organisations. - Interview with Viola Bianchetti.
One of the self-imposed goals of Germany’s new Federal Government is to shift the priority of its European policy from a focus on EU cohesion towards its reform and deepening. The first window of opportunity for this will open as early as spring 2022. In order to achieve the desired reform of the EU, however, Germany must change four aspects of its approach to European policy.
POLITICO: How Putin made the EU great again
Continent has come together in the face of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
EU OBSERVER: Vladimir Putin – the man who just united Europe
War is famous throughout history as the midwife of revolution. But no-one could have imagined just a short week ago when Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of a European democracy, Ukraine, that in just a few days there would be a revolutionary change not seen in Europe, since — well — the days of the Bolshevik upheavals of 1917.
In short, Putin has united Europe as never before.
Articles that appear in the current issue of Orbis, which we started to plan last year, centered around the theme of Russia’s long shadow over Europe. We had no idea that that shadow would be materialized yesterday in Ukraine with military action—a major combined arms campaign, the resumption of warfare in Europe on a scale not seen in decades—really calling into question many of the pillars of the post–Cold War era