Conference on the Future of Europe: Vice-President Šuica wants a permanent active role for the EESC

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The forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is a sign of new thinking at EU level, bringing citizens right into the heart of policy-making with concrete power to drive systematic change, said Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica at the EESC Plenary. 

The Conference on the Future of Europe should be launched on Europe Day, 9 May 2021, on the basis of a Joint Declaration signed by the presidents of the Commission, the rotating Presidency of the Council and the European Parliament. The declaration will explicitly define the concept, structure, scope and timing of the CoFoE, and also set out the jointly agreed principles and objectives. This declaration will later be open to other signatories, including institutions, organisations and stakeholders.

The role of the European Economic and Social Committee in the Conference will also be to help define the Joint Declaration. According to the latest information, the EESC has been designated as an observer on the Executive Board that will govern the CoFoE. 

EESC president Christa Schweng stressed that the Covid-19 crisis has pushed the European Union and the European institutions to their limits. But the Recovery Plan strengthens the solidarity among Member States and enhances the ambitious effort to share resources and work together for a common goal.

This example is proof of what Europe can be and it reminds us that what unites us is more important than what sets us apart. It is now our task to ensure these measures do not represent just one isolated episode; we need to ensure long-term improvement of our policies and our institutions and make sure we can act together as one, beyond emergencies. This is the reason for which we are organising a Conference on the Future of Europe, which is also a Conference FOR the Future of Europe. It is a great chance to connect with organised civil society and the public, bringing everyone together with a shared goal. We should not forget that the original purpose of the Conference was to bring the EU closer to its citizens, restoring their trust in the EU. said Ms Schweng.

Ms Šuica outlined the key elements of the Commission's agenda for the Conference:

  • healthcare and the EU’s response to the public health crisis
  •  a multilingual digital platform designed to be a one-stop-shop for all information relating to the Conference
  • genuinely local, national and transnational debates, right across the European Union
  • a strong, effective feedback mechanism to ensure that concrete results can be delivered from the deliberations of the Conference.

Our society has changed. We therefore need new thinking. Politics has changed. We are no longer in  "business as usual" mode. This is why I want to emphasise the importance of civil society. Your cooperation is vital to the full implementation of our priorities, including in the context of the pandemic and of our democracy. Throughout the whole process of the Conference on the Future of Europe, we must find innovative ways to make sure we leave no-one behind, to establish trust, solidarity. No institution or person can do this alone. Together, and only together, can we recover and build our resilience while constructing a more prosperous future, for all generations concluded Dubravka Šuica.

Stefano Mallia, president of the EESC Employers' Group, said: The EU needs to adapt to new realities so that it remains a future-oriented project which can preserve peace, prosperity and democracy. The Conference of Europe is a unique opportunity to demonstrate how and why the EU is relevant to its citizens. The Conference cannot be about the loudest voice, which can be manipulative. Democracy is about numbers and representativeness. This is why the EESC must be at the core of the Conference, as a permanent member of the executive board. The Conference should aim at creating a structured and virtuous participation mechanism around the recovery, reform and resilience plans.

Oliver Röpke, president of the EESC Workers' Group, said: The Conference should focus on what matters most to the public, what touches their everyday lives: social issues, jobs, housing, health, education, culture, digital revolution, a fair transition towards a climate-neutral and sustainable Europe and the role of Europe. It should add real impact to EU policies and decision-making and deliver some follow-up. The suggestions and conclusions should then be taken on board by the institutions and feed into concrete proposals. As workers' representatives, we are in favour of a social progress protocol, to ensure that fundamental social rights and fundamental economic freedoms have equal footing in EU law.

Séamus Boland, Diversity Europe Group president, was convinced that the European institutions need the EESC to successfully conduct the Conference on the Future of Europe in order to consult the public. We represent the organisations in which citizens are active and can help create avenues for informed dialogue. The Diversity Europe Group in particular has an important role in legitimising the process and in reaching out to the myriad organisations in which citizens are active. We are ready to help in this process, but under certain conditions: the first is that we are allowed to play a meaningful role with a permanent observer status which is explicitly recognised. The second is that there is agreement that there will be tangible results and concrete follow-up to the proposals made by citizens.

For more information, please contact:

Katerina Serifi - EESC Press officer
aikaterini [dot] serifiateesc [dot] europa [dot] eu
+32 25 46 91 75