The involvement of organised civil society and the EESC is crucial in ensuring the broad participation of citizens in the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), highlighted Christa Schweng, president of the European Economic and Social Committee, at the inaugural Conference Plenary in Strasbourg on 19 June. Ms Schweng took part in the plenary along with a delegation of 18 EESC members.
Ensuring the Conference will bring tangible results and improvements is a must in order to not fuel Euroscepticism, said president Schweng. That is why accountability and transparency are of the utmost importance. There must be a feedback mechanism to ensure that the ideas expressed during the Conference events result in concrete recommendations for EU action.
We should develop an online dashboard allowing citizens to see the follow-up measures resulting from the Conference, their timeline and their implementation status. If proposals made during the Conference are not followed up on, this requires a clear and transparent explanation, president Schweng said.
Representatives of the three EESC groups drew attention to a number of detailed aspects.
The Employers' Group underlined that businesses need a European refresh of the "licence to operate". They asked for a European framework conducive to entrepreneurship, open to innovation, passionate about creativity and based on scientific evidence. A European Excellence Space would be of the utmost importance in enabling European industry to remain at the global forefront, delivering jobs and sustainable growth for Europe.
The Workers' Group's representatives stated that returning to business as usual was not an option. In their opinion, "it is time to put workers and their families first – time to learn the lessons from the previous crisis where Europe too often reacted using the wrong means. Economic market freedoms must no longer prevail over fundamental social rights in the internal market: there is a need for a Social Progress Protocol that puts both on equal footing."
The Diversity Europe Group's representatives pointed out that "the future of Europe is about recovering from the last two crises – financial and COVID-19 – and about leaving nobody behind. Sustainable societies and recovery for all are needed. The Conference on the Future of Europe must therefore also involve excluded and marginalised groups. Actively engaging civil society will allow to reach out to citizens at local level and to voice their concerns and ideas for the future. This is the Committee's added value."
The EESC has 18 seats at the Conference Plenary; its role is to bring the views of organised civil society to the conference.
In the resolution adopted in April the EESC called for a new narrative for Europe grounded in the realities of everyday life, with a civil society in the driving seat. The resolution contains a series of recommendations to make most out of the Conference on the Future of Europe.