News

Conference on the Future of Europe to kick off on Europe Day

03 May 2021

The Conference on the Future of Europe is going to kick off on 9 May  and while starting with some delay and issues concerning the vision, mandate, processes and set up, as well as too few engagement points for organised civil society, it provides an opportunity for the philanthropy sector to engage around the process. Philanthropy has a role to play in addressing the societal challenges and opportunities that Europe is facing and now has an opportunity to contribute towards the shaping of the future of Europe to address them.

Philanthropy Advocacy will in the coming months engage around the Conference on the Future of Europe and will issue regular updates and point to entry points for philanthropy. We will also be able to use our seat in the Economic and Social Committee Liaison Group and other entry points to provide input. We also encourage those of you who are interested to comment directly on the future of Europe through the tools that are there.

Objective:

The Conference on the Future of Europe is an initiative of the European Commission and the European Parliament, announced at the end of 2019, with the aim to review the medium to long term future of the EU and potential reforms that may be recommended. The Conference should be a citizens-focused, bottom-up exercise for Europeans to have their say on what they expect from the European Union.

Set up:

Details on the structure and scope of the Conference can be found in the Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe signed in Brussels by the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council, and by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, acting as its Joint Presidency.

The Conference is governed by the Executive Board composed of representatives from the three EU institutions (European Parliament, Council and Commission), on equal footing. There will be an observer status for the Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions and COSAC as well as from Business Europe and ETUC. The Executive Board will oversee the work, progress and organisation of the conference.  The co-chairs of the Executive Board are Guy Verhofstadt on behalf of the European Parliament, the Portuguese Secretary of State for EU Affairs, Ana Paula Zacarias as the Presidency’s representative and the European Commission Vice-President, Dubravka Šuica.

The Conference Plenary, which will discuss collected ideas, will be composed of representatives from the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission, as well as representatives from all national Parliaments, on an equal footing and citizens. The Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee, the social partners, and civil society will also be represented. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be associated when the international role of the EU is discussed. Representatives of key stakeholders may be invited.

The Executive Board will draw and publish the conclusions of the Conference Plenary.

Process:

  • Multilingual digital platform - will be the place for citizens and other stakeholders to share ideas and send online submissions. You can see what others have to say and find events near you. All input will be collected, analysed, monitored and published throughout the Conference;
  • Decentralised events – online, in-person and hybrid events held by people and organisations as well as national, regional and local authorities across Europe;
  • European Citizens’ Panels – will take place in different countries and will discuss different topics and put forward citizens proposals; they will be representative in terms of geographic origin, gender, age, socioeconomic background and/or level of education;
  • Conference Plenaries – aims to ensure that the recommendations from the national and European citizens’ panels, grouped by themes, are debated without a predetermined outcome and without limiting the scope to pre-defined policy areas.
  • The above-mentioned digital platform gathers information about and feedback from decentralised events and “national” events. It also collects ideas from citizens.

Feedback collected on the platform will feed into discussions of the European Citizens’ Panels and Plenary debates. A feedback mechanism aims to ensure that the ideas expressed during the Conference events result in concrete recommendations for EU action.

The final outcome of the Conference will be presented in a report to the Joint Presidency. It is foreseen that the three Institutions will examine how to follow up effectively to this report, each within their own sphere of competences and in accordance with the Treaties.

Call for engagement to provide input on a range of topics:

And via the digital platform or decentralised and “national events” you can let the Conference know your opinion. Your ideas will be collected, analysed, monitored and published on the platform, throughout the Conference.

Timeline:

  • April 2021 – Launch of multilingual digital platform
  • 9 May 2021 – Kick-Off Conference
  • second half 2021 – Launch of EU-wide expert meetings and citizens dialogues (by EU institutions and member states)
  • 2022 – Closing Conference, during the French Council Presidency the Conference is expected to reach conclusions and provide guidance on the future of Europe

Criticism around the Conference

Different actors have criticized the approach and structure of the conference. A few have even called to “just cancel the conference” stating thatNo matter how hard they try to make these future-looking discussions citizen-driven, bottom-up, and representative of European society, the voices present will not speak for what the majority of Europeans want.”

Organised civil society also felt that it had not enough inclusion in the conference set up and could not therefore ensure a true civil dialogue. The Conference could now be the opportunity to give more content to the provisions on civil dialogue and to further improve them to enable better participation processes. The Conference on the Future of Europe is scheduled to kick-off on 9 May with an official event.

Civil Society launches a parallel Convention for the Conference on the Future of Europe to collect more civil society input

Meanwhile, the Philanthropy Advocacy secretariat has joined the civil society led Civil Society Convention,  which seeks to collect civil society input and bridge to the Conference. Civil Society Europe invited various civil society organisations “working towards regenerating the European project around the shared values of Equality, Solidarity, Inclusiveness and Democracy” to join the CSO convention, which is currently composed of over 75 organisations active at the pan-European level that share EU values and subscribe to the joint declaration. It remains open for membership throughout the process, see the Call for joining the Civil Society Convention and the sign up document.

The work of the CSO Convention will be structured around 5 thematic clusters in separate working group(s) with one CSO chairing each cluster. Each member of the CSO Convention can apply to send representatives to the working groups. Interested participants are invited to submit their applications through the following link. The deadline for submitting the application is 9th of May 2021.

The first CSO Convention public debate on the Future of Europe is set for 11th May.

Stay tuned as Philanthropy Advocacy will provide regular updates on how the Conference on the Future of Europe and the CSO Convention progress and we hope that your ideas and input will also inspire the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Contact: nbitterova@efc.be for more information