Noticias Conference on the future of Europe

Amid a war, Europeans imagine the Union of tomorrow

Within the Conference on the Future of Europe, citizens developed and voted for a list of recommendations. They approved their final requests, totalling 178 wishes for the EU they envisage, just a couple of days after war knocked on our doors.

Publicado en 21 marzo 2022 a las 15:55

Attendees in Dublin wouldn't expect to start their first day of meetings, 25 February, protesting against the war in Ukraine. Yet, just one day before, Russia began its full scale invasion and explosions were reported in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, and the Donbass. At such a disgraceful time in history, over 200 people were supposed to write down their desires for tomorrow. But first they awash Dublin’s castle with blue and yellow flags, as part of a larger protest taking place across all member states.

It may be that civil society, by coincidence forced to aroused in these dramatic and particularly close circumstances, will bear the only possible sense of Europe.

The citizens’ panel in Dublin was the final of four debates and one of many pieces of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). Like previous panels, it resulted in a vote for the best recommendations to the EU institutions.

Participants touched on a broad variety of topics: stronger economy, social justice, jobs, education, culture, sport and digital transformation. Despite the confusion this curious mix may have caused, some proposals are particularly compelling.

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One is the introduction of a minimum wage, to ensure a similar quality of life in all member states. Work has been a hot topic, with citizens calling for stronger legislation to regulate smart working, a revision of the existing framework for working hours, and the right to disconnect. In terms of social justice, 78% asked for EU intervention to support palliative care and assisted death. 

The most successful proposal, reaching almost 95% of the votes, is for more EU powers to fight the spread of illegal online content and cybercrime. Brussels should also promote a specific education to tackle fake news already at school. Finally, 85% of the participants voted for the abandonment of single-use plastics and 90% for more transparent labeling.

Previously, panel 2 looked at EU democracy, values, rights, rule of law and security. Panel 3 focused on climate change, environment and health. Panel 4 was about the EU “in the world” and migration.

Held in Maastricht in February, 40 recommendations came out of the fourth panel . Among those, a proposal for replacing the Dublin Treaty - which currently obliges Member States whose borders represent the EU's ultimate fronteers to take care of all applications from asylum seekers. Citizens also asked for faster and common standards to process applications and, although they voted against a EU army, they suggested the construction of “joint armed forces” to “predominantly be used for self-defence purposes” and “to provide support in times of crises such as in the case of natural catastrophes”.

Panel 3 was in Warsaw in January. Suggestions included: fighting products’ planned obsolescence, increasing subsidies to organic farming, setting minimum standards for food quality, making CO2 filters compulsory, investing in green hydrogen. On the health side, creating a single European database, more powers for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), lowering taxation for hormonal contraceptive products, focusing on sexual and mental education in schools.

Finally, citizens at panel 2 held in Florence in December approved 39 recommendations, demanding more civil rights and more opportunities for young people.

A total of 178 proposals were debated in Strasburg on 11-12 March and were included in the final report on 17 March. However, this is not supposed to be the end of CoFoE.

On the contrary, “citizens will continue to participate in the decision-making process, they will not return to the four corners of Europe to disappear and not be seen again”, said liberal MEP and co-chair of the Conference, Guy Verhofstadt, once in Dublin.

At such a crucial time, the future arrived and found citizens ready. Less so politicians. "In the meantime, there is a question of life and death in Ukraine", added Verhofstadt.

“While we are engaged in an exercise that brings us closer to citizens, Putin is launching military action against Ukrainian citizens that had voiced European aspirations: this is an attack on our values and our way of life,” said vice-president for Democracy and Demography, and co-chair of the CoFoE, Dubravka Šuica, In Strasburg. “Being European means that you are part of a unique project, one that allows everyone to live their full potential and exercise their rights. That is why now, in these horrific circumstances, the Conference is more important than ever, it is needed more than ever.”

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