The final meeting of a series of citizens’ panels saw Europeans formulate ideas on how the EU should promote quality jobs, a healthy economy and social justice.
It was the third and final meeting of the panel, which provides people’s input for the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Some participants joined remotely due to Covid-19.
Find out more about the role of the citizens’ panels in the Conference
The panellists came up with 48 recommendations grouped under five main topics:
- Working in Europe
- An economy for the future
- A just society
- Learning in Europe
- An ethical and safe digital transformation
In a discussion at the start of the panel, citizens expressed shock at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the return of war on the continent. In a gesture of solidarity and support, they posed for a group photo with the Ukrainian flag.
Sustainable economy and quality jobs
The recommendations highlighted the need for a shift in the economy towards sustainability. Europe should get rid of plastic containers and planned obsolescence of products, further increase the use of renewable energy and reward companies that lower the environmental costs of production.
Panel participantd also demanded a common EU labelling system for food products and tax harmonisation with taxes paid in each country where a company sells products.
The EU should introduce a minimum wage to ensure a similar quality of living across member states, the panellists recommended. Companies should be incentivised to keep jobs – especially those that allow working remotely – in the EU and not relocate them to lower-cost countries.
Digital training and soft skills such as listening to each other, encouraging dialogue and critical thinking should be taught in schools, as they would be critical for the future job market.
Participantds recommended guarantees for social and health care for the elderly and said minimum pensions should be above the poverty line.
Other demands included access to decent social housing, equal family rights in all EU countries and rules for assisted dying. “We want to have dignified death… We have this in Spain, we are a Catholic country, but there is no problem with that. If it’s done properly, I think it can work,” said Gloria, one of the participants.
Education and learning
Studying foreign languages should start in kindergarten, as it makes other countries and cultures more accessible, panellists said. They also called for English to be a core subject in primary schools across the EU.
They said that the dangers of digitalisation and the internet should be taught in elementary schools and that the EU should develop a platform with teaching materials on climate change and environmental issues.
“Young people are entitled to good education and good training,” said Ava from Sweden.
The EU should strengthen its capacity to fight cybercrime and illegal content, invest in high-quality digital infrastructure and work to improve education on disinformation and fake news, the citizens said.
They also called for better enforcement of data protection rules. “We looked at these technology giants, these big platforms. They can’t dictate to us about our lives. They need to be told how to stick to the rules, how to protect our data and protect our private lives,” said Gino from Portugal.
Panl participants want further measures to fight disinformation, including rules forcing social media companies to come up with algorithms assessing the trustworthiness of content and the establishment of an independent platform that rates information from traditional media.
Representatives of the panel will present and debate the recommendations at the next Conference plenary on 11-12 March 2022 in Strasbourg. The plenary includes representatives of the EU institutions, national parliaments, civil society and citizens.
There will be two plenaries in March and two in April, where the conclusions of the Conference will be discussed. The final outcome will be presented in a report to the presidents of the Parliament, Council, and European Commission, who have committed to following up on the proposals for EU action.