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EuropeFuture of Europe: Conference plenary puts finishing touches to proposals

Future of Europe: Conference plenary puts finishing touches to proposals

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The Conference on the Future of Europe plenary met again in Strasbourg on 8-9 April to further develop proposals from the Conference’s working groups.

Chairs from the nine topical working groups presented the proposals to the Conference plenary where all members – representatives of citizens, European and national parliaments, EU institutions, social partners and civil society – debated them.

The proposals are based on recommendations made by citizens in EU and national panels, ideas gathered through the Conference’s digital platform, and exchanges held during Conference plenary and working group sessions.

Check out the discussion on the draft proposals in the previous Conference plenary session.

While there were calls for treaty changes in many areas during the plenary debates, some said the EU should push ahead with practical solutions that could be applied faster and with existing tools.

The war in Ukraine heavily influenced the finalisation of proposals.

Final discussions on proposals in nine areas

In a lively debate on the EU in the world, the question of whether EU competencies should be changed to better tackle crises such as the war in Ukraine came into the spotlight, with participants discussing the benefits and threats of abolishing the rule of unanimity in the Council. Supporting less developed countries and trade agreements were also discussed.

The right of countries to veto Council decisions was also one of main topics of discussions on European democracy. The debates also included calls for a more people-centred Europe that continues listening to citizens’ proposals: “We want a European charter for citizens’ participation. There should be a digital platform and a youth check for EU legislation,” said Manfred Weber (EPP, Germany).

On migration, debates tackled strengthening the EUs role on migration and a stronger system based on solidarity and shared responsibility, as well as improving integration. “Respect for human rights, solidarity, root causes of migration are present in the recommendations,” said Jordi Solé (Greens/EFA, Spain).

There were calls to protect the rule of law in the debate on values and rights, rule of law and security proposals. “European citizens call for a value-based EU, they ask for stricter legislation, for fiercer action on governments that fail the test,” said Katarina Barley (S&D, Germany). Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR, Poland) said: “I’m in favour of discussion on our values, but nobody should have a monopoly on what our values are.”

On health, many participants asked for new EU competencies, including minimum standards of health service across the EU. Alin Mituța (Romania, Renew Europe) said: “We would be able to save more lives if we could cooperate Europe-wide in the area of health, for example having a Europe-wide list of transplants and cardiovascular disease.” Promoting healthy lifestyles was on the table as well: “At schools, we should promote the culture of food,” said Susanna Ceccardi (ID, Italy).

The education, culture, youth and sport working group progressed on proposals about harmonising educational programmes, training, more funding, stopping the brain drain and strong social protection for young people. The balance between more English language in school and protecting minority languages was tackled and in sports, questions of gender equality, inclusiveness and the proper representation of local and traditional sports were raised.

On the topics of a stronger economy, social justice and jobs, the proposals were discussed in the context of supporting Ukrainians and tackling the social and economic consequences of the war inside the EU. The focus should be on a more sustainable and resilient economic model, concentrating on the green and digital transition. There were calls to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU economy, ensure good working conditions and tax justice.

Food security was among the main topics discussed on the climate change and the environment. More sustainable agriculture, climate action with faster implementation of the Green Deal going hand in hand with a fair and just transition and better informing consumers on greener mobility and food options were also discussed.

Digital solutions were discussed across working groups, not just the digital transformation group. Access to the internet as a fundamental right, digital skills, cybersecurity, trustworthiness of information without censorship, effective data protection and non-biased artificial intelligence were all discussed. “Access to digital infrastructure should be equal for everyone. People must be at the forefront of the deployment,” said Helmut Scholz (The Left, Germany).

Next steps

The final Conference Plenary sessionon  29-30 April will approve proposals to be presented to the Conference’s executive board. The final report will be delivered on 9 May in Strasbourg to the Presidents of the EU institutions who have committed to acting on the proposals.

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