Citizens should say what kind of European Union they want and based on that its institutions should carry out the necessary reforms, the first plenary meeting of the Conference on the Future of Europe was told in Strasbourg on Saturday.
“Today, we are writing a new page of the European Union project. For the first time, parliamentarians, government representatives, commissioners and citizens, together with regional and local authorities, social partners and civil society are shaping the future of the European Union,” said Dubravka Suica, Commission Vice-President co-chairing the Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
“It is vital that we, decision-takers and citizens, consistently review our democracy and its mechanisms to see how we can improve it, from the bottom up, seeking to strengthen our representative democracy,” Suica said, calling on all citizens, including citizens of Croatia, to participate in the project.
The Conference on the Future of Europe is a pan-European project aimed at giving EU citizens an opportunity to present their views on what the EU should look like. Its inaugural meeting was held in the European Parliament building in Strasbourg on Saturday and was attended by representatives of the European Parliament, national parliaments, the main EU institutions, social partners and non-governmental organisations.
There were no representatives of citizens at the meeting because the process of their selection is still ongoing. It is expected that the plenary will be complete for the next meeting in October.
“We are living in difficult times, but we are strong. … It is a huge responsibility. We have to make this conference work. We have to have concrete results at the end of it,” Portuguese Secretary of State Ana Paula Zacaria said on behalf of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Most speakers highlighted the need to achieve close cooperation among the nations of Europe, listen to the citizens and know their fears, frustrations and expectations.
The Co-Chair of the Conference’s Executive Board, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, said that the Conference was crucial for establishing a Union “fit for purpose” in the coming decades and capable of responding to new challenges in the world.
Among those attending was Croatian MEP Sunčana Glavak, who said she believed that an open approach and direct democratic communication between EU citizens, members states and EU institutions would reaffirm the values of the EU project and strengthen all three of its pillars – democracy, civil inclusion, and fundamental rights and values.
Glavak said that this was a historic moment of direct democratic participation by EU citizens in shaping the socio-economic and political framework of their common future.