The last of Demsoc’s series of posts on the Conference on the Future of Europe has happened to have remarkably good timing. This morning European Council President Michel, European Parliament President Sassoli, and European Commission President von der Leyen gave a joint press conference on the Future of Europe including touching on the Conference on the Future of Europe. Whilst we still have to wait for an official Joint Declaration, this gives us a good idea of the current state of play on inter-Institutional negotiations on the Conference.

It seems that currently there is not clear agreement between the Council, Commission and Parliament. The latter seems to have set out the clearest position with the most ambitious (by institutional standards) elements, and arguably the Council and Commission seem to oppose this, although the extent of this is unclear. We will find out how close to the truth this is in due course, and may have to exercise patience whilst we wait for a firmer statement of intent.

In the meantime, we will recap in brief the previous four posts from this series by Demsoc, and will conclude it by laying out in simple terms what we believe the next steps are.

We started by asking ‘what does good look like?’ and through a combination of fundamental principles and best practice case studies, we gave a look at what would the conference should and could include to make it as successful as possible.

We then examined some of those best practice case studies in more detail, and compared and contrasted them with the institutional statements on the Conference on the Future of Europe. 

We took that work and on day three we asked what those cases and proposals had got right, and that they had in common, that could be built on to form the process for the Conference.

Yesterday, we brought all of these together, to lay out Demsoc’s proposal for what the process could look like.

It is now up to the negotiators from the institutions to come up with a plan for what the Conference might look like. At this morning’s press conference, Bruno Waterfield from The Times of London asked how the EU would make sure that this Conference had more success that the Convention on the Future of Europe that was the result of the Laeken Convention in 2001. President Sassoli  replied by placing great importance on involving civil society, although he didn’t address the specifics of this. 

Hopefully this involvement will come at the start of the process rather than when it is already underway, so organisations with experience, expertise or existing connections to communities and individuals can help to inform the process. If the institutions wait to involve civil society or any outside influence until the process has been confirmed, they may not get an enthusiastic response, or much willingness to participate. A steering committee, made up of experts on citizen engagement and participation could work with the institutions from the earliest possible point to create a process that will both serve them and the people of Europe. Going even further than this would be positive if when negotiations over the process are complete, they leave room for citizens to shape the project alongside experts and institutional officials. If the plan going forward can allow some room to innovate and invite citizens to create then the Conference will be better for it. 

At the end of the joint press release from the three institution’s Presidents, it states That only the European Union will be able “to be ambitious on the defining issues of our times… But we know we can only do it together: people, nations, institutions.” Lets hope that ambition, and desire to collaborate with people, starts with the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Original source – The Democratic Society

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