On Wednesday the European Parliament will discuss and decide on the conference on the future of Europe. The last similar conference, the Convention on the European Constitution, was based on the failure of the constitutional treaty due to referendums.
We are in a completely different situation today than almost 20 years ago when the constitutional treaty was drawn up. From the European Parliament's point of view, the future conference should also explicitly not be a convention made up of delegates from various national and European institutions. Rather, there should be a really broad democratic debate over two years. In contrast to the idea of the Commission President, we do not want to specify any topics, but rather to provide an entry point for advice and the development of practical suggestions on all those points that really burn the citizens' nails. This, in turn, is supposed to take place in thematic agoras, civil assemblies, a reference to this instrument of the ancient Greek democracy.
That means that the citizens should decide for themselves what topics they want to talk to the representatives of the EU institutions?
The structure of the conference is not easy to grasp. It should not be a sham democratic exercise – incidentally, a suspicion that is also voiced by some leftists. According to the EP proposal, the conference should take place in two parts as a permanent space, namely in Citizens' Agora and the so-called plenary conference, which are in constant discussion with one another. As a counterpart to the Agoras, we will see representative democracy reflected in the plenary conference, i.e. by representatives from the European Parliament, from the national parliaments, but also by government representatives from all member states for the Council, the three responsible commissioners Suica, Jourova and Sefcovic, and by representatives of the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee and the social partner. That would mean about 250 participants.
In both bodies?
In this plenary conference. That comes along strictly gender-quoted. The same applies to the citizen agora, which in turn is drawn together by lot, taking into account the socio-economic, demographic and regional diversityis set. And not by political bodies or government agencies.
How are the two conferences brought together? You shouldn't argue with each other.
We insist on full transparency from the parliamentary side. It is therefore proposed that everything be streamed, that all materials be publicly accessible and that the citizens' agora not only take place in one place, but in parallel in different EU member states. This will of course be a huge undertaking and the logistics still have to be worked out. But above all: Such a discourse must not be without consequences, it could also lead to changes in the law, if necessary to the treaty, and possibly to a new definition of the EU's competences. An example of the latter: will the energy mix really be made European in the future so that it is a real energy mix, or will it be left with a general framework for the member states? In short: Everything that is currently under scrutiny in EU politics has to be connected with this future conference.
How is that supposed to work in practice? So the Agoras meet, fix certain topics and then their emissaries go to the plenary conference and present the focal points there?
The plenary conference, for its part, also discusses the issues that, from the point of view of the parliaments, the Council and the Commission, are important for the future of Europe. But that cannot happen separately from the debate in the Agora. In this respect, this civic-driven process is the actual mechanism at stake, and that is why the European Parliament has tried very hard to take this approach forward. Representatives of the Agora report to the plenary conference, and the reverse must also be done.
You mentioned various possible outcomes of the conference. Which committee decides what the bottom line is?
That will have to be determined by the conference itself. She must recommend that the results be brought back to a convention. This is an institutionalized form with fixed representatives from the then 27 member states.
So there is again the danger that ultimately those who always do decide.
The Citizens Agora will receive feedback from the plenary conference and will act accordingly. This also gives them the opportunity to influence the conclusions that will be summarized in the plenary conference. In this way we as Parliament want to ensure that citizens have a real and active say in the context of representative democracy.
It all sounds pretty complicated.
It certainly sounds complicated. But it is a new approach and, from a European law perspective, we are breaking new ground. And as the European Parliament, we still don't know whether the Commission and the Council want to follow this path. It is a mechanism that should at least encourage and enable all actors to in turn present their ideas for a future EU to society. That is why I see the future conference not only as an opportunity, but also as a task for the Left Party to worry about how we can get involved in questions that will arise during the conference. And to consider where, together with other left-wing parties, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and other political actors, we have the opportunity to bring our utopias, positions and concrete proposals into the future conference.
Populists and right-wing forces will also try to use the organized future debate for themselves.
It would certainly be a crime to hide critical voices about the current state of the European Union and the direction of integration. Because if we don't answer these questions, the populists will gain ground. Let's see what Johnson did in the UK. He did not speak an honest debate about the causal relationship between national solidarity policies and participation in the European integration process, he opened up against each other. That is exactly what must not happen. In this respect, only a broad discourse creates the possibilities to go beyond the state of today's EU and to regulate new foundations for the solidary coexistence of people on our continent, legally and legally binding.
. (tagsToTranslate) EU (t) EU Commission (t) European Parliament (t) LEFT (t) Ursula von der Leyen