The Conference on the Future of Europe plenary of 21-22 January debated people’s ideas on how to improve democracy, rule of law, environment and health in the EU.
More than 40 representatives of European citizens’ panels and national panels discussed their recommendations for a better Europe with members of the European Parliament and their counterparts from the national parliaments, representatives of EU institutions and national governments, regional and local authorities, trade unions and civil society. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many participants joined remotely.
The debates, which took place in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, took plae after six weekends of deliberations by the citizens’ panels and took into account thousands of ideas arising from grassroots events or posted online.
Learn more about the Conference Plenary
Strengthening the rule of law and democracy
Ideas on how to further strengthen the rule of law in the EU, fight disinformation and ensure media independency received broad support from plenary participants. There were also many calls for measures against discrimination in the workplace and a framework that supports maintaining a better work-life balance.
Improving our environment and health
Climate change was one of the major concerns, with panellists urging the EU to invest in climate-friendly technologies, support less polluting types of transport and pursue environmental objectives in any agreement with other countries. Concrete measures to improve animal welfare and the care for people who live in rural areas were highlighted as well.
Call for action
During lively discussions, panellists asked for “detailed and timely” feedback from politicians on the panels’ recommendations. Sebastián Guillén, a participant from Spain, warned that Europeans “don’t want you to be telling us you will do something that you will actually never do”.
“We were given a voice, we were listened to. Now, we need solutions, not excuses. Let’s work together to ensure future generations will be proud of us, not ashamed,” said Dorin Hell, from Germany.
Following the event, Conference co-chair Guy Verhofstadt said he was “struck by how confidently citizens defended their recommendations, if necessary even against experienced politicians”. “It’s based on these recommendations that we need to formulate proposals and conclusions for the Conference,” he said when opening the plenary.
Conference co-chair Dubravka Šuica assured participants that “there’s no reason to doubt” that their calls will be heard.
Participating MEPs and members of national parliaments praised the “constructive” contributions from citizens and said they have the potential to “bring real change” to the EU.
The Conference plenary opened with a minute of silence in memory of Parliament President David Sassoli, who passed away on 11 January. Verhofstadt said that Sassoli “was a firm believer in the need for this conference” and “believed that the necessary impulse for change that politicians and other relevant actors so often speak about can only come from citizens”.
The two remaining meetings of the European citizens’ panels will be held in Dublin and Maastricht in February. Issues to be discussed are:
- A stronger economy, social justice and jobs as well as young people, sport, culture and education/digital transformation
- EU in the world/migration
Following the two panels, citizens’ representatives will present and debate their conclusions with members of the EU institutions, national parliaments and civil society in the Conference Plenary.
The final outcome of the Conference will be presented in a report to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission, which have committed to following up on the conclusions.
Check out the Conference platform for citizens’ ideas for the future of Europe