There is the idea of announcing a European Convention by means of a joint declaration of the highest Community authorities, with the idea of studying an eventual reform of the Union's Treaties

Guy Verhofstadt

4th CoFoE Plenary

The war in Ukraine has changed the landscape in the Old Continent and, for that reason, the conference today was attended by Ukrainian citizens, who were greeted with a long applause, as well as a minute's silence for the victims of the war.

"When we started this conference a few months ago, in 2021, the purpose was to look ahead and give young people a Europe fit for the future. That was our goal and our hope, but we have to recognize that since then, in the last three weeks, a part of Europe is being dragged back into the past, hit by the kind of war we thought we would never see again," said Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, co-chair of the conference's executive committee.

He assured that Ukraine is "fighting for European values and principles."

"It is a nation with European history, perspective and aspirations that deserves candidate status immediately," he commented, adding that the CoFoE's conclusions "will have to reflect the current tragedy in Ukraine."

European Commission Vice-President in charge of Democracy and Demography and also co-chair of the CoFoE executive committee, Dubravka Suica, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a "military action against Ukrainian citizens who have expressed European aspirations."

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, assured that the war in Ukraine "has shown us even more if possible that we need a strong Europe capable of playing a role in security".

"It is time to think big and boldly because if not now, when?" he asked, and considered that "perhaps this is the moment for the birth of a geopolitical Europe". He also stressed the importance of "cutting ties" with Russian gas and oil.

Compared to the debate held at the end of January, citizens felt that procedures were better followed, and the discussion was more productive.

Recommendations were presented, debates took place, and EU representatives stated institutional positions. Citizens wanting to reply to EU officials could raise the “blue card” to speak again.

UEF in the Plenary

The Union of European Federalists (UEF) was represented in the Plenary of the CoFoE with our President and MEP Sandro GOZI, Vice-President and MEP Domènec RUIZ DEVESA and UEF Secretary General Anna ECHTERHOFF as part of the EMI Delegation to the CoFoE. 

“Ukraine crisis makes a federal Union even more urgent. Let’s strengthen European autonomy in defense and free ourselves from the vetoes that prevent us from having a true foreign policy. The opportunity is historic.” said UEF President and MEP Sandro GOZI in the Plenary.

“Enhancing European Democracy has to be the key priority for reforming the EU, in order to make European policy responsive to citizens’ demands, helping to bridge the gap between EU institutions and their citizens.”, added UEF Secretary General Anna ECHTERHOFF during the 4th Plenary session.

In the European Democracy Working Group, UEF President and MEP Sandro GOZI, claimed for the implementation of Yearly citizens’ assemblies, complemented with mid term assemblies on the Future of Europe, to ensure a follow-up. This would secure direct citizens participation in between elections.

EU Convention after CoFoE?

The executive co-chairman of the CoFoE, Guy Verhofstadt, said that once this initiative ends in May "there is the idea of announcing a European Convention" by means of a joint declaration of the highest Community authorities, with the idea of studying an eventual reform of the Union's Treaties.

At a session held on Wednesday in Brussels, Verhofstadt pointed out that the text should be signed both by the presidents of the Commission and the European Parliament, Ursula von der Leyen and Roberta Metsola -respectively-, and also by the future President that France will elect in the elections this April, in his capacity, if necessary, as rotating leader of the European Council.

To these three, Verhofstadt conveyed the wish of some MEPs that "there should be a joint declaration on the results and conclusions of the CoFoE" and that this communiqué should serve to activate a European Convention, a non-permanent body that is only convened to negotiate reforms in the Union's Treaties, the texts that act as a European "constitution".

"The entire CoFoE will be invited to the Convention, including the citizens who have participated in the panels. The question is whether it will be in person or remotely, because there are 800 participants", the Belgian MEP recalled.

A joint statement of the two parliamentary delegations to the Plenary of the CoFoE is being prepared by MEPs and member state MPs, the latter under the leadership of representatives from the French National Assembly and Senate. It is expected to comprise a set of common positions on key areas of the Conference’s work. Parliament’s delegation is aiming for an ambitious outcome, by turning the recommendations of citizens into strong proposals that will take into account the latest threats to European democracy, peace, and security. 

MEPs are due to report back on the status of these proposals and their negotiations next week, at the next CoFoE plenary session, scheduled for March 25-26.

Committee of Regions

On 11 and 12 March, the fourth meeting of the plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe took place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. A total of 88 recommendations from the European Citizens’ Panels no 1 which covers three of the nine topics of the Conference (a stronger economy, social justice, jobs; education, youth, culture, sport; digital transformation) and no 4 which covers two (EU in the world and migration) were debated. Citizens from Ukraine were also given the floor.

One week after the adoption of the Manifesto of regional and local authorities for European democracy at the European Summit of regions and cities that sets out how 1.2 million local and regional politicians see the future European Union, delegates from local and regional authorities proposed both by the European Committee of the Regions and by territorial associations and other regional and local stakeholders intervened in both in working groups and in Plenaries on these five topics.

What’s next?

Discussions will continue at the next CoFoE plenary session, scheduled for March 25-26, in Strasbourg. 

There will be two more plenaries 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.

Articles and Papers

CoFoE and transnational lists and democracy - UEF President and MEP Sandro Gozi opinion piece for EURACTIV

European democracy has remained imprisoned in a strictly national logic. Despite the fact that globalisation has eroded the effectiveness of their action, the governments of the member states have repeatedly opted for unilateral approaches to tackle transnational crises, to the detriment of citizens’ rights and interests. In the Europe of the 21st century, therefore, it is necessary to overcome the notion that democracy is an asset enclosed within national borders, and to introduce instead a vision of democratic and participatory processes that crosses existing borders.

Let’s place citizens at the centre of Europe Alin Mituța, Brando Benifei, Damian Boeselager, Danuta Hubner, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Domènec Ruiz Devesa, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Helmut Scholz, Pascal Durand and Sandro Gozi opinion piece for EURACTIV

The Conference on the Future of Europe placed citizens at the centre of reform in the European Union. This should be a concrete and tangible outcome of the Conference. Let us democratise our Union by putting citizens’ participation at the core of European decision making, writes a group of ten MEPs.

EURACTIV:EESC: initiating CoFoE recommendations screening process is crucial

A “dashboard” to follow-up citizens’ recommendations must be created, so the CoFoE does not fail its goal of including citizens in EU policymaking. - Christa Schweng is the president of the EESC.

EURACTIV: Can the Conference on the Future of Europe deliver?

Experts are sceptical on the success of the EU’s CoFoE, but there is still time and many ways to make it count, writes Maria Koomen (the Open Governance Network for Europe, a joint Open Government Partnership and Democratic Society initiative). 

THE FEDERAL TRUST: The Democratisation of Europe

The achievements of the European quest for ‘ever closer union’ are so original that politicians and scholars still have to coin the terms with which to name them.

EGMONT: Paving the way for a meaningful EU Year of Youth 2022

As the pandemic eases, the EU has decided to dedicate 2022 to young people. But this opportunity should not aim at recycling policies and interventions that have not worked pre-pandemic as they will definitively not fit for purpose in the post COVID-19 era. There is a need for age-sensitive tailored policies developed for and with young people.

This policy paper recommends concrete actions that the EU could take, as of 2022, to help young people navigate this crisis.