How to seize a long-awaited opportunity
On the day of the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe, I encourage citizens to take part in this historic undertaking. I would also like to appeal to policy-makers to ensure that we get the most out of what people have to say.
The conference is a unique exercise of participatory democracy. To succeed, it must focus on bottom-up engagement. We must reach out to the person in the street in each and every corner of the EU to listen to what they have to say. We must engage equally with those already convinced and with those who are hesitant about the union.
However, listening to people is just the first step. The ideas expressed during the Conference events should result in concrete recommendations for EU action. I would also opt for a down-to-earth approach regarding the scope of the discussion. It is better to arrive at less ambitious conclusions that are acceptable for all rather than diving into high-level philosophical disputes with no chance of agreement.
Moreover, the progress must be measurable. I am in favour of creating a "dashboard" where citizens can follow up on the measures coming out of the conference. People need to be able to get a clear picture of the state of play and a timeline for the topics they worked on. The institutions need to explain why they are or are not following up on certain proposals.
The future of Europe requires a new, positive narrative. We need to prove that Europe is a great place to be and to prosper – a place that creates opportunities for everyone to live the life they want, based on commonly agreed values. People in the US are proud of their American dream; I believe that it is time for Europeans to finally start enjoying and appreciating their own way of life and the benefits it brings.
The EESC will keep actively contributing to the conference – through our events and by mobilising civil society organisations throughout Europe. We hope that our voice will be heard loud and clear. If we really want to bring the European project back to citizens, civil society should be in the driving seat.