This “Conference on the Future of Europe”wanted by French President Emmanuel Macron, “will be historic from the moment we implement what has been decided”warned the Belgian Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, co-chair of this conference.
At the end of the seventh and final plenary session of the Conference, Friday 29 and Saturday 30 April in the European Parliament, the elected representative saw in the approved proposals “a really promising path for the EU”. And this despite “a lot of skepticism at first”. The establishment of this “unprecedented work for our Europe”, greeted Friday by the French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune, had been more than laborious. In particular because of rivalries between the three European institutions – Commission, Council (representing the States), Parliament – on the role of each and the follow-up to be given to the exercise, then to the health crisis.
800 citizens invited to reflect and propose
It was only in the autumn that 800 European citizens were able to begin their work of reflection, surrounded by elected officials and representatives of civil society, fed by the several thousand proposals already formulated on a multilingual online platform.
“Directing subsidies towards organic farming”, “to establish common minimum standards” for health care, vote in the European elections from the age of 16, or “to periodically hold citizens’ assemblies” : thus, 325 proposals around 49 objectives were selected. “European democracy will never be the same again”said Dubravka Suica, Vice-President of the European Commission and Co-President of the Conference.
Uncertainty and hope
However, the future of these proposals is still uncertain and the ball is now in the court of the European institutions, which will receive, with Emmanuel Macron, the final report of the Conference on May 9, Europe Day, in Strasbourg. “The European Parliament will inevitably want to take up many of these ideas, the Council will probably want to put the brakes on a lot of subjects and that will also depend on the presidencies” rotations of the Council, currently France until the end of June, analyzes Éric Maurice of the Robert Schuman Foundation.
Claiming an increased political role, the European Parliament intends to put pressure on the Member States and the Commission as of next week with the vote of a call to trigger a procedure for revising the European treaties. A change necessary to concretize certain citizens’ proposals, such as that of putting an end to the unanimous decisions of the Twenty-Seven, a regular brake on European action. “That will be the next big discussion”according to Guy Verhofstadt.
“European laws should be decided by majorities, not vetoes”, insisted on Twitter the German Manfred Weber, at the head of the main parliamentary group (EPP, right). But according to Eric Maurice, “the issue of treaties should not be the tree that hides the forest of all proposals”. Because the work done “full of concrete and interesting ideas”among “it will be necessary to sort out the feasibility and acceptability”. “We hope that these proposals will be followed up and that our dreams will come true”declared Saturday in the hemicycle Camille Girard, French high school student and youngest citizen participating in the closing plenary of the Conference.
Without the Eurosceptics…
Sign of the difficulties to come to politically transform the test, the eurosceptic group of the European Parliament, ECR, slammed the door of the Conference. “The program to give more powers to Brussels was crudely supported by the organizers with a biased selection of citizens”criticized the group on Saturday via a press release, which includes in its ranks the MEPs of the nationalist conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in power in Poland.