ISSUE N.5

09/07/2021
Newsletter
UEF

"This is the right time to be politically ambitious and to fight for a sovereign and democratic Europe, capable of shaping a new world order, politically and economically. This will be our commitment in the Conference."

UEF Secretary General, Anna ECHTERHOFF


1. 1st CITIZEN’S PANEL IN LISBON

The first European citizens' event, also in the framework of the Conference, was held on 17 June 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal, and live streamed online. The panel was  composed of 27 representatives from national Citizens' Panels or national events (one per Member State), as well as the President of the European Youth Forum and a number of the citizens already selected for the European-level Citizens' Panels. The event, also organised in hybrid format, gave participants the opportunity to discuss their expectations from the Conference with the three Co-Chairs. These participants also attended the inaugural Plenary in Strasbourg.

You can rewatch the Lisbon Citizen’s Event here.

2. THE INAUGURAL PLENARY

The long awaited Conference on the Future of Europe held its first plenary session in Strasbourg on Saturday 19th June, hoping to succeed in encouraging citizens, who are not yet very involved, to participate in this vast consultation on the future of the European Union.

The agenda included presentations and discussions on the purpose and expectations of the conference, including European citizens' and national panels.

Portugal, the former holder of the EU’s six-month rotating Council presidency, organised the first ‘European Citizens’ Event’ earlier that week.

"This conference is a unique experience," boasted Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt in the hemicycle of the European Parliament. Verhofstadt, coordinator for the European Parliament delegation, explained that citizens would first express their wishes before passing the baton to the plenary, which would formulate "concrete proposals for reform" and then, finally, pass the baton to the EU institutions for their implementation. "We must make this conference work, we must have concrete results at the end," insisted Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State for European Affairs of Portugal.

"What we are trying to do now is to get European citizens to talk together and contribute ideas about the Europe we want to build," she added to an assembly composed mainly of 108 MEPs, 54 Council representatives, three members of the European Commission, 108 representatives of national parliaments and 16 representatives of social partners and civil society.

Speeches by the Parliament’s delegation set out a broad array of priorities. Most MEPs spoke about the Conference’s potential for reform, with many putting forward proposals for treaty change. A few doubted the Conference is going in the right direction - some consider it too ambitious, others say it is not ambitious enough. Nevertheless, virtually all agreed that the EU needs to change in order to respond better to crises and tackle internal and external challenges, and that reaching out to all citizens and shaping their ideas into concrete proposals is a top priority. 

In addition to the plenary, the CoFoE will take the form of a multilingual online platform allowing European citizens to share their vision of the future of Europe. But while the participation of citizens in the debate remains the main unknown, the platform, which went live in mid-April, had attracted more than 17,700 participants by the day of the inauguration. 

You can find excerpts from MEPs’ speeches below, and segments of the debate in the multimedia package. An edited video with excerpts is also available. The entire session is available here.

3. CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE PLENARY

The European Movement International has been allocated three seats in the CoFoE Plenary, as part of the eight civil society representatives.

Those three seats will be taken by Yves Bertoncini, Vice-President of the EMI, Petros Fassoulas, Secretary-General of the EMI and Anna Echterhoff, Secretary General of the UEF, as an International Association within the EMI. We strongly believe that being a part of the CoFoE Plenary is a remarkable and deserved milestone in the history of this organisation.

After WW2, the European Movement was created on the basis of unity, peace, and democracy. The Conference on the Future of Europe builds on this and is a unique opportunity to show how the EU delivers and benefits all Europeans, said Mr. Fassoulas.

Mr. Bertoncini reinforced that we must act even more together and reinforce the EU to be able to promote our interests and values at the world level. For this to happen, we must give citizens even more control on the EU’s functioning and decisions, at all levels.

Christa Schweng, President of the European Economic and Social Committee who took part in the plenary along with a delegation of 18 EESC members, said that the involvement of organised civil society and the EESC is “crucial in ensuring the broad participation of citizens.

4. UEF IN THE PLENARY

UEF, as an international association within and one of the founding organisations of EMI, believed in the importance of this Conference right from the start. Since the UEF foundation in 1946, and European Movement in 1948, we have been fighting for a Europe that is politically united. We are convinced that this is the right time to be politically ambitious and to fight for a sovereign and democratic Europe, capable of shaping a new world order, politically and economically. This will be our commitment in the Conference, said our Secretary General, Anna ECHTERHOFF, during the first plenary session of the CoFoE.

UEF is present in the Plenary also with its President Sandro GOZI, MEP, and its Vicepresident, Domènec RUIZ DEVESA, also MEP. 

In his intervention Sandro GOZI summarized that we must be ready to respond to citizens' demands with concrete solutions, with political decisions, with new laws, but also with revisions to the Treaties.

On his part, DEVESA stated that we need a developed, ecologic, social and federal Europe. Paraphrasing what was said in the Schuman Declaration, we need creative efforts commensurate with the challenges that we are facing.

As UEF, through the participation of our President, Vice-President and UEF as part of EMI‘s delegation we have a unique opportunity to contribute directly to shaping the future of Europe: Let's build together a democratic and sovereign Europe!

5. ABOLISH THE RIGHT OF VETO & ASSIGN DIRECT POWERS TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

The EU should abolish unanimity in its foreign policymaking and not allow itself to be “held hostage”, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Monday 7th June, after several incidents in recent months derailed the bloc’s joint positions on a series of foreign policy matters. “If you do that, then sooner or later you are risking the cohesion of Europe. The veto has to go, even if that means we can be outvoted,” he added.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has repeatedly called for establishing qualified majority voting in EU foreign policy, especially on sanctions.

Most recently, the Netherlands and Spain argued in favour of revamping the rules, saying that “strengthening the EU’s ability to defend its public interests and increasing its open strategic autonomy requires effective decision-making mechanisms”.

Democracy is not compatible with the right of veto. Replacing unanimity with qualified majority decisions is indispensable for the full democratisation of the EU. For a true European democracy, let’s abolish the right of veto and assign direct powers to the European Parliament in taxation and foreign policy! Engage with UEF's proposal in the CoFoE digital platform.

6. MANAGED EXPECTATIONS: VIEWS ON THE CoFoE 

This report reveals what individual member states want to achieve with the Conference and their expectations of the potential results. It brings together short contributions from a representative cross-section of EPIN members and distils the essential aspects. It investigates the respective governments’ positions on institutional reform ideas, EU Treaty change, prioritised policy fields, plans for national citizen participation and media coverage, as well as the general current political environment regarding further EU integration.

7. UEF XXVII European Congress – Our Federal Europe, Sovereign and Democratic

During the XXVII European Congress, held in Valencia on the first weekend of July, the UEF organized a political debate on the CoFoE with several guests and distinguished speakers. Among them, Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Co-Chair of the Executive Board of the CoFoE, thanked the UEF for raising awareness on the CoFoE and to involve the citizens into its process. She highlighted the importance of this, as the Conference has been conceived for citizens and depends on their inputs. Likewise, she praised the relevance of UEF website informative page in the CoFoE.

8. NEXT STEPS

The European Citizens’ Panels will convene in September and October to prepare their input to future plenary debates, including a set of recommendations for the Union to follow-up on, based on citizens’ contributions collected via the Platform. The Conference is committed to giving maximum space to young people and in this vein, preparations for the European Youth Event organised by the European Parliament on 8-9 October will also continue. The next Plenary session is scheduled for 22-23 October.

9. CoFoE PLAYLIST

Our President and MEP Sandro GOZI, who is also passionate about music, has created a themed playlist on Spotify inspired by this unique participatory exercise. You can listen to Sandro’s CoFoE soundtrack here!

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