Spring Paper 13
« Can the Conference on the Future of Europe deliver its promises »
Spring (*), a private, non-partisan think tank that has been active since 2013 welcomes with interest the creation of the Conference on the Future of Europe (“the Conference”), which is an excellent joint initiative of the three European institutions.
This first and very ambitious exercise of participatory democracy (# the Future is yours) allows the citizens of the 27 Member States to propose their ideas, to comment on those of others, and to create and participate in events (**) via a multilingual digital platform including 10 themes. A main pole consists of 4 panels of 200 randomly selected citizens (by nationality, gender and age) in the 27 member countries. These panels allow them to reflect together on the future they want for the European Union.
Let us briefly mention some concerns:
• The health crisis and the (too) long negotiations on the structure and the decisional functioning of the Conference have unfortunately shortened its course, which was initially planned to last 2 years, but which will have to be concluded on 19 May 2022 under the French Presidency of the EU.
• The experience of using the digital platform by some of our members has shown that this innovative tool was rather difficult to use. There were in May 2022 only 51.928 registered participants but 17.443 ideas expressed.
• Were we not too ambitious in choosing 10 main themes for the Conference and 4 citizens’ panels debating too many topics (e.g. 19 in the panel “The EU in the World”)?
• A Finnish representative of the above-mentioned panel regretted that few politicians were present, or left the panel after giving their speech…
• Civil society is concerned about the risk to the Conference if the 27 member states do not implement the citizens’ proposals that were retained.
Without knowing at this stage the outcome of this Conference as for the ,proposals that will be taken into consideration, we can already ask ourselves ,some questions about the practical results of this exercise of democratic participation.
• According to which decision-making process will the 3 European institutions select in the final report the proposals for change from the ,digital platform and the 4 citizens’ panels?
• What is the main objective of the Conference? Is it a substitute for the normal legislative process or is it a vehicle to accelerate legislative change in some areas where progress was too slow?
• What will be the longer-term impact of the Conference, as it goes on, on ,the institutional future of the EU via the changes that have been selected?
• Let us keep in mind that, were tangible results not obtained, the citizens ,might be disappointed - remembering all too well the ambitious name ,“The Future is yours and in your hands” of this Conference.
( * ) www.springeurop.eu ( ** ) futureu.europa.eu