Conference on the Future of Europe
The Conference on the Future of Europe is a proposal of the European Commission and the European Parliament, announced in the end of 2019, with the aim of looking at the medium to long term future of the EU and what reforms should be made to its policies and institutions. It is intended that the Conference should involve citizens, including a significant role for young people, civil society, and European institutions as equal partners and last for two years. It will be jointly organised by the European Parliament, the EU Council and the European Commission.
Timetable, expected outcome
- 12/13 December 2019 – First Discussion at the EUCO
- January 2020 – Conference concept / Interinstitutional mandate
- February 2020 – Kick-Off of Phase 1 (in particular transnational lists, lead candidate system, issues related to citizens' participation in EU institutions/matters)
- July 2020 – Kick-Off Conference of Phase 2 in Brussels
- second half 2020 – Launch of EU-wide expert meetings and citizens dialogues (by EU institutions and member states)
- 2021 – Thematic and midterm review conferences
- first half 2022 – Closing Conference
They also outlined the (by them) expected outcome of tangible and concrete results: The Conference should commit itself already in the interinstitutional mandate to produce tangible and concrete results. The final document with recommendations should be presented to the EUCO for debate and implementation.
Italy was among the first Member States to develop an articulated position on the possible content and outcomes of the Conference. This position was elaborated in a "non-paper" published on 19 February 2020 (see here)
State of work, next steps, results, outcome
As of November/December 2019:
- The European Parliament's Working Group has worked out a first draft for the methodology of the conference at the end of December 2019. According to the report by one of its members:
- the European Parliament should play a leading role.
- Up to six citizens' assemblies are to play a central role – in them, representative citizens from all over Europe should draw up recommendations that will be presented to the EU institutions. There should be around 200 participants per meeting, who will debate on a given political issue. The meetings are to be held in various European cities, with participants from all Member States.
- The conference is to be headed by a steering committee (organizational and logistical questions, composed by representatives of the Commission, the Council and the seven political groups in the EU Parliament.
- EU institutions should implement the proposals in concrete legislative proposals or even treaty changes – representatives of the EU Commission, the Council, the European Parliament and the national parliaments, all political bodies that will be involved in (possible) ratification. Representatives of regional parliaments and civil society should also be involved.
- The by institutions negotiated legislative proposals should be presented to the citizens' assemblies so that they correspond to their ideas.
- The EU institutions should commit to implementing the recommendations, in laws or treaty changes.
- The parliamentary groups' leaders adopted the draft of the working group. It is due to be voted on in plenary in January 2020 and to be negotiated with the EU Commission and the Council.
- The conference should begin on May 9, 2020.
- On 15 January 2020, the Parliament adopted a resolution setting out its vision for the Conference with 494 votes for, 147 against and 49 abstentions.
- The Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) endorsed an opinion setting out criteria for the Conference's structure and the topics that AFCO members want to see covered in the Conference's debates on 9 December 2019. A resolution of the EU Parliament is to be voted in the January 2020 plenary session.
- The European Council (EUCO) (should have had) discussed the Conference during its summit on 12–13 December 2019.
Chair of Conference
The usual way of involving citizens in the EU is that of opinion surveys, citizens' consultations, talks (dialogues, debates) and, since 2012, accepting petitions with proposals.
Under the Barroso Commission (2004–2014) debates with citizens took place, with fifty-one Citizens' Dialogues in EU countries. Followed by a final pan-European one in Brussels, with participants from all the cities that had organised a debate, and with the participation of the President of the Commission, the Commissioners and representatives of the European Parliament and with national and local politicians.
Under the Juncker Commission (2014–2019) the debates were announced in the White Paper on the Future of Europe of March 2017.
An online consultation on the Future of Europe was launched in May 2018, with a questionnaire of twelve questions, designed by a panel of ninety-six citizens,
giving "the opportunity to citizens to express their expectations, concerns and hopes".
Citizens' Dialogue conferences took place, involving the President of the Commission, the Commissioners and some staff members of the Commission, "town-hall style debates carried out in line with Juncker's invitation to members of the College of Commissioners to be politically active in communicating the common agenda to citizens and listening to common concerns coming from them".
The 2019 Report on Citizens' Dialogue and Citizen's Consultation was delivered to the "EU-27 leaders as material for reflection" for their EUCO Sibiu meeting of 9 May 2019.
It remains to be seen, whether – during the upcoming debates of the Conference on the Future of Europe (from "February 2020 [on] – Kick-Off of Phase... issues related to citizens' participation in EU institutions...", as proposed by the French and German governments in their "non-paper") – more participation of citizens in EU matters arises from the promise of Ursula von der Leyen given at her candidate's speech: "I want citizens to have their say at a Conference on the Future of Europe... bring together citizens, including a significant role for young people, civil society, and European institutions as equal partners..."
Position of the European Commission
- "I want citizens to have their say at a Conference on the Future of Europe, to start in 2020 and run for two years. The Conference should bring together citizens, including a significant role for young people, civil society, and European institutions as equal partners. The Conference should be well prepared with a clear scope and clear objectives, agreed between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. I am ready to follow up on what is agreed, including by legislative action if appropriate. I am also open to Treaty change."
In her "mission letters", which von der Leyen assigned the nominated Commissioners, three members of the new College of Commissioners were made responsible for the Conference on the Future of Europe: Věra Jourová, Maroš Šefčovič, and Dubravka Šuica. Whereas Šuica is primarily tasked with the preparation of the Conference in collaboration with the European Parliament, Jourová is designated to represent the Commission at the Conference. Šefčovič's main responsibility lies in the follow-up on the results of the Conference, which shall be undertaken jointly with the European Council, the Council of the European Union, and the European Parliament.
Position of the European Parliament
On 16 October 2019, the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament decided to set up a Working Group on the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Working Group is composed of one representative per political group in the European Parliament and one representative from the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO), however, some in the Working Group are also in the AFCO. It is tasked with preparing "a proposal on Parliament's approach to the Conference on the Future of Europe, including, inter alia, the scope, the governance, the duration, the structure, the stakeholders, the objectives and the expected actions and outcome."
|Members of the Working Group ||EP group||AFCO|
|President of Parliament|
|Representatives of political groups|
|Representative of AFCO|
|Antonio Tajani (pro tempore)||ITA||EPP||Chair|
Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO)
In November 2019, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) began their debate on how to shape the structure and scope of the Conference. How to involve citizens, representatives of civil society and national parliaments. How to foster a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down one. On the involvement of citizens, some have underlined that the criteria for selection would be important in ensuring inclusive participation in respect of diversity and gender balance. On the possible topics of the Conference, the AFCO committee discussed the issue of the legislative initiative of Parliament, Council as a second chamber, the rule of law, qualified majority voting in Council, Spitzenkandidaten, transnational lists, economic governance, social policies, the transparency register, and an independent ethics body. On 9 December 2019, the AFCO committee submitted an opinion on the structure, working methods, and topics of the Conference.
Positions of the European Council
On 26 November 2019, it became public that the French and German government have drawn up a "non-paper" on the Conference. After initial delay due to the 2020 corona virus pandemic, the European Council agreed on their initial position in June 2020  stating that "the conference should be launched as soon as the epidemiological conditions allow for it" and that the focus should be on how to develop EU policies over the medium and long term in order to tackle more effectively the challenges facing Europe. The Council explicitly specified that the Conference does not fall within the scope of Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), ensuring that any potential treaty changes are either entirely outside the scope of the Conference or would have to go through a separate Article 48 procedure after the conclusion of the Conference in 2022.
Politico observes that the Conference "would likely require the European Parliament to adopt a resolution on the process at its January plenary in Strasbourg. Given the huge scope of the effort, which could potentially lead to proposed changes to the EU treaties, Parliament is expected to wrestle a bit with the Commission and Council for control of how the process plays out."
The Swiss NZZ concludes: "After all, a few days ago Berlin and Paris took up the idea of a Citizens' Conference on the Future of Europe which they advocated in a joint proposal. From 2020 to 2022, debates will begin first on the democratic functioning of the EU and then on all other controversial topics. An adaptation of the treaties as a consequence of this is explicitly not excluded. Many member states do not like to hear that. Treaty changes are complicated. Because, for example, all national parliaments have to agree. But perhaps the EU needs such a major overhaul."
The Washington Post calls the Conference proposal "a trial balloon" which "brings together the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council" and that "France and Germany have signaled that they want ambitious reforms." Observing that "it's possible that the E.U. may have learned in the meantime from national citizen assemblies like those ... in Ireland." Further, that "of course, it's not at all certain that the Conference's proposals – or any proposals – can produce changes that win the support of all E.U. members ... a major revision to the E.U. treaties would need the approval of 42 parliamentary chambers and up to 17 national courts. A referendum is effectively inevitable in Ireland and possible in 20 more E.U. members ... Given the difficulties of securing approval, it is possible that Europe's future does not lie in a general treaty change but, instead, in ... treaties between subsets of E.U. members designed to deepen integration in specific policy areas."
- Convention on the Future of Europe (2001 / 2002–2003, formally European Convention) which drafted the: Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (2004), rewritten into the Treaty of Lisbon (2007 / 2009)
- European Convention (1999–2000) which drafted the: Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000 / 2009)
- Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe , EPRS European Parliamentary Research Service, Author: Silvia Kotanidis, Members' Research Service, PE 644.202 – December 2019
- Ursula von der Leyen: Political Guidelines for the next European Commission 2019-2024, ec.europa.eu
- Conference on the Future of Europe, Franco-German non-paper on key questions and guidelines, French and German governments (November 2019 ?, undated)
- Europaparlament will Bürgerversammlungen im EU-Reformprozess (European Parliament wants citizens' assemblies in the EU reform process), Daniel Freund, 20 December 2019, on his blog, danielfreund.eu (in German)
- European Parliament adopted a resolution setting out its vision for the Conference Retrieved 20 January 2020.
- "European Parliament - EPTV - Committee meeting: Committee on Constitutional Affairs - 09 December 2019". Retrieved 11 December 2019.
- "European Parliament - eMeeting for Committees - 09 December 2019". Retrieved 11 December 2019.
- Guy Verhofstadt ready to chair citizen consultations on Europe's future Retrieved 20 January 2020.
- European Commission > ... > Public Opinion > Eurobarometer Interactive > Future of Europe (including "Climate change"), October–November 2018, ec.europa.eu
- European Commission > Debate on the future of Europe > Calendar of citizens' dialogues Citizens' Dialogues across the EU – Over a period of 1 and a half years, the European Commission reached out to citizens by visiting towns across Europe and asking them directly for their views, archived on 15/12/14, ec.europa.eu
- Citizens' Dialogues as a Contribution to Developing a European Public Space – Report from the European Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, European Union, 2014, ec.europa.eu
- White Paper on the Future of Europe – Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025, European Commission, 1 March 2017, ec.europa.eu
- European Commission > EUSurvey > Consultation on the Future of Europe – Get involved in this consultation to express your concerns, hopes and expectations about the future of the EU. This is not about drafting EU rules and regulations. This is about making your voice heard by EU leaders to help them steer the right priorities for the years ahead. This questionnaire was created by a Panel of citizens selected on a random basis. It complements other initiatives from the European Commission on the Future of Europe. ongoing, ec.europa.eu
- European Commission > About the European Commission > Get involved > Citizens' Dialogues – Attend a free Citizens' Dialogue and influence the debate on Europe. ongoing, ec.europa.eu
- Citizens' dialogues and citizens' consultations – Key conclusions, 30 April 2019, European Union, 2019, ec.europa.eu
- From: Presidency, To: Delegations, Subject: Citizens' Consultations – Joint Report on the Citizens' Consultations on behalf of the Austrian Presidency and the incoming Romanian Presidency, Council of the European Union, Brussels, 3 December 2018, data.consilium.europa.eu
- "President-elect von der Leyen's Mission Letter to Dubravka Šuica". European Commission. 10 September 2019. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- "President-elect von der Leyen's Mission Letter to Vĕra Jourová". European Commission. 10 September 2019. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- "President-elect von der Leyen's Mission Letter to Maroš Šefčovič". European Commission. 10 September 2019. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- Conference of Presidents. Minutes of the ordinary meeting of Wednesday 16 October 2019, European Parliament
- europarl.europa.eu > committees > afco > members (as accessed in December 2019)
- "Greens/EFA - Members". Retrieved 11 December 2019.
- "Committee on Constitutional Affairs - Draft Agenda: Extraordinary meeting, Monday 25 November 2019" (PDF).
- France and Germany propose EU overhaul after Brexit upheaval, John Chalmers, additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Jonas Ekblom in Brussels, editing by Giles Elgood, Reuters, World News, 26 November 2019
- EU gears up for post-Brexit renovation, Eszter Zalan, EUobserver, 26 November 2019
- Germany and France release a non-paper on the Conference on the Future of Europe, European Western Balkans, 26 November 2019
- Paris et Berlin font affichage d'une volonté commune sur l'avenir de l'Europe, Les Echos, 26 November 2019 (in French)
- Berlin and Paris outline plan for EU makeover, Rym Momtaz and David Herszenhorn, Politico Europe, 26 November 2019
- Conference on the Future of Europe - Council agrees its position, Council of the EU Press release, 24 June 2020
- e.g. La France et l'Allemagne prônent une réforme profonde de l'Union européenne post-Brexit, L'Opinion, 27 November 2019 (in French) / Franco-German drive for EU institutional overhaul by 2022, New Europe, 28 November 2019 / and many others (citing agencies, like Reuters)
- Von der Leyen's real 100-day challenge – So many promises. So little time, Politico, 28 November / 1 December 2019
- A grand bargain for Europe might yet be possible, Wolfgang Münchau, Financial Times, 1 December 2019
- Why Ursula von der Leyen, with the EU Commission Presidency, takes over the «most difficult job in the world» – Ursula von der Leyen will arrive on Sunday to make the EU greener, more digital, more competitive, more social and safer. That should be quite difficult for her, Christoph G. Schmutz, NZZ, 1 December 2019 (in German)
- France and Germany have big plans for E.U. reforms. Is this the right time?, Dermot Hodson and Imelda Maher, The Washington Post, 6 December 2019
- Janis A. Emmanouilidis & Johannes Greubel: Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) positions of EU institutions – comprehensive summary of key elements, comparing in detail the positions of the Council of the European Union, European Parliament, European Commission and their draft declaration (″Zero Draft″, March 2021), EPC European Policy Centre, Brussels, February/March 2021, on wms.flexious.be
- Mapping of positions on the ‘Conference on the Future of Europe’, overview of the positions: Council of the European Union, European Parliament, European Commission, on democracy-international.org
- Conference on the Future of Europe 2020–2022, from 2019 onwards, on europeansources.info
- International Conferences in Europe, conferenceineurope.net
- Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe , EPRS European Parliamentary Research Service, Author: Silvia Kotanidis, Members' Research Service, PE 644.202 – December 2019, on europarl.europa.eu
- Conference on the Future of Europe, Franco-German non-paper on key questions and guidelines, French and German governments (November 2019 ?, undated), on politico.eu