Overview of all papers
Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is a watershed moment for Europe, challenging many of our fundamental assumptions. When the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) comes to an end on 9 May, EU institutions must not only decide on the follow-up to this exercise but, more fundamentally, give direction to the future of the European project.
It will require more than just a few well-intended Sunday speeches. The multiple consequences of the new era we live in have increased the urgency of policy reforms as well as institutional innovations in different areas. But the exact direction of travel is clearer in some areas (e.g. energy independence from Russia) than in others (e.g. future of EU defence or democratic reform).
On 29 and 30 April, the final Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) adopted its conclusions in 9 subject areas, consisting of 49 proposals and countless affixed measures. They are the culmination of an entire year of European Citizens’ Panels; plenary sessions; and local, regional and national events and engagement on the multilingual digital platform. By all the different means available in the Conference context, people from all over the EU have weighed in on crucial policy questions, including climate change, democracy, digitalisation, foreign affairs, migration and well-being. Citizens, alongside politicians and other stakeholders, were able to express their ideas about how the Union should deal with current and future challenges.
The report is divided into three sections which look at the past, present and future of the Conference:
• What worked? Were the European Citizens’ Panels successful? What flaws need to be addressed in the final sessions?
• What now? What must be done in the final ‘hot’ phase of the Conference? How can the citizens’ recommendations be translated into proposals?
• What next? How can citizens’ deliberation become part of the EU’s future participation toolbox?
This report is the result of exchanges within the Conference Observatory’s High-Level Advisory Group (HLAG) under the co-chairmanship of Brigid Laffan and Herman Van Rompuy. The contents and views expressed in this report reflect discussions among HLAG members and input provided by them, but do not necessarily represent the individual views of each member of the Group or the institutions they are affiliated with. The report has been drafted by the HLAG secretariat, which is composed of Janis A. Emmanouilidis, Theodora Famprikezi, Johannes Greubel, Dominik Hierlemann, Perle Petit, Georg E. Riekeles and Corina Stratulat.
The Conference on the Future of Europe can only lead to tangible results if Germany puts its full weight behind it – and fast. But with the upcoming federal elections and the change in government, there is a risk that Berlin will be too distracted.
After multiple delays, the Conference on the Future of Europe has finally started. But the endeavour still faces numerous hurdles. First, European citizens – who are meant to play a leading role in the upcoming European Citizens’ Panels, national events and the Conference Plenary – are not aware that the Conference is taking place. Second, the complex process needs to gain speed, given that the Conference is supposed to come up with a Final Report in spring 2022. Third, the list of issues to be covered is extensive, even though experience suggests that exercises in citizen participation are most successful when they focus on particular topics and specific questions.
“Una casa para todos”: Observations from the first European Citizens’ Panel of the Conference on the Future of Europe
Last weekend, 180 citizens from all over the European Union gathered in Strasbourg for the first European Citizens’ Panel of the Conference on the Future of Europe. EPC analysts Johannes Greubel and Corina Stratulat were there to observe. They share their first impressions in a special report for the Conference Observatory.
Besides a comprehensive description of the process and the overall atmosphere in Strasbourg, the report assesses the chosen methods and procedures. It also highlights a few kinks that could – and should – be ironed out in the course of the Conference.
Multilingual Digital Platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe – Interim Report August 2021
With the Conference on the Future of Europe, the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission have created an opportunity for European citizens from all 27 Member states to engage in a debate on Europe’s challenges and priorities in order to create together a Europe fit for the future. As part of the Conference process, a Multilingual Digital Platform (referred to in the following as ‘the platform’) was launched on 19 April 2021 (futureu.europa.eu) and will remain live throughout the work of the Conference.
The aim of this report is to give a first overview of citizens’ contributions on the platform notably in view of the European Citizens’ Panels, which will start their work from mid-September. It covers findings on contributions during an initial period from 19 April to 2 August 2021.
Next level EU citizen participation – Transnational Digital Dialogue with EU Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Virginijus Sinkevičius
Over the course of three days, 100 people from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Lithuania discussed how one might achieve a more democratic, greener and digital Europe. The EU Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Virginijus Sinkevičius were not the only ones very impressed with the outcome. The publication on the Dialogue describes the deliberative, fully-online process and has a look at the participants’ proposals and their evaluation of the dialogue.
‘The Conference on the Future of Europe: Mind the gaps!’, Corina Stratulat and Janis Emmanouilidis, 12/03/2021
The Conference is an experiment of inclusive reflection and renewal that could help our European democracies innovate, adapt and prosper. But to be successful, the Conference leadership must be mindful of six treacherous gaps in the Joint Declaration: the decision-making structure, the policy agenda, the national dimension, the link between citizens’ and representatives’ dimension, the feedback loop, and our strategic allies in the Balkans. Success is by no means a given, and time is too short to cover all bases. To give it their best shot at realising the potential of this initiative, the leaders of the Conference should mind these 6 treacherous gaps.
In Transnational Citizens’ Dialogues, randomly selected citizens from different countries come together, exchange ideas, and co-create ideas. Our SHORTCUT is a collection of experiences and findings from five pilot projects where we demonstrate how Transnational Citizens’ Dialogues work, both as real and digital events.
After an eight-month-long negotiation, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council agreed on a Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe. To get there, the EU institutions needed to overcome various stumbling blocks to find compromise and accommodate each institution’s preconditions. This table provides an overview of all the institution’s positions and how they compare to the Draft Joint Declaration. Specifically, the table shows (1) the general issues connected to the mandate of the initiative, (2) its structure and composition, (3) the Conference’s governance, (4) its plans for citizens’ participation, and (5) the expected outcome.
the EU does not count the Balkan countries among those stakeholders who should participate in the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe, then one has to wonder whether the Union is still serious about the European perspective of the region. The EU should extend a formal invitation to political leaders and citizens from the Balkan countries to join the activities and discussions of the Conference on a consultative basis. Without an invitation, the Balkan countries must organise themselves to follow the Conference and mirror its activities.
Good participation means that all parts of society are heard and that solutions are based on a variety of diverse opinions and interests. Random selection is increasingly used in citizen participation to achieve a maximum of diversity and inclusion.
On 30 June 2020, the Presidents of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council officially kicked off the negotiations on a Joint Declaration for the Conference on the Future of Europe. Striking a compromise on some aspects will be harder than on others. The three institutions’ positions set forth over the past few months already overlap in some parts. Nonetheless, there are at least three key issues where they diverge profoundly, and consent will probably be hard-fought: (i) determining leadership; (ii) the question of treaty change; and (iii) the post-Conference follow-up. The positions of the Parliament and the Council are, in particular, diametrically opposed to each other on these issues, while the Commission is much more cautious.
Deliberative democracy is about getting people closer to government and decision makers. It requires factual information, open dialogue, diverse opinions, and constructive arguments. Today, more and better interaction between citizens and policy makers is vital, particularly when difficult decisions are made.
ONLINE DIALOGUE: United in Diversity. How to make a participatory Conference on the Future of Europe happen and a success?
Together with the (at the time) French State Minister for European Affairs Amélie de Montchalin, her Austrian colleague Karoline Edtstadler, MEPs, and experts on EU policy from Member States and think tanks, we discussed during an online dialogue: How can citizens be involved in the Conference on the Future of Europe? What topics should be addressed? And how can and must the results be implemented?
Instead of focusing on the ‘unknowns’, the Conference organisers should look to the past and learn from earlier exercises in which citizens were invited to participate in policymaking, at the national and EU level. These events can already tell us what works and what doesn’t. Using past experiences, we can find clarity to three questions: (1) why engage with the citizens; (2) how to consult citizens; and (3) what is the follow-up?
Under the heading “2020: Shaping the Future of Europe Together”, the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the German Foreign Office invited citizens, politicians and experts to a joint discussion and event. Citizens from Poland, France and Germany discussed their ideas with the Foreign Ministers Heiko Maas and Ekaterina Zaharieva.
DINNER DIALOGUE: How to get Citizen Participation right – Starting the Planning for the Conference on the Future of the European Union
The Bertelsmann Stiftung together with the King Baudouin Foundation and Open Society Foundations invited EU politicians and experts on democracy and European affairs to a Dinner Dialogue on 4 February 2020. We discussed conceptual planning of the Conference on the Future of the European Union. Among the guests were the Vice-President of the European Commission, Dubravka Šuica, the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness, and the German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth.
The second draft Blueprint for the Conference on the Future of Europe presents a reworked version of the first draft published in November 2019. In addition to outlining what is on the table for the Conference, the blueprint advocates for a strong citizens’ and representative dimension and aims to link the two at the national and transitional level. It foresees the adoption of a Future of Europe Action Plan leading to concrete financial, legal, institutional, and policy reforms, including treaty change if necessary). The Blueprint also recommends that the Conference should limit the number of strategic priorities to the green transition, digital innovation and transformation, a Global EU, and Democracy and Governance.
New ways to increase citizens’ participation in Europe – Cross-border EU Citizens’ Dialogues in Frankfurt/Oder, Passau and The Hague
This publication focuses on the innovations associated to EU Citizens’ Dialogues: random selection of participants, interactive methods, and multilingual discussions. We present experiences and outcomes of the cross-border EU citizens’ dialogues in Frankfurt/Oder, Passau and The Hague, conducted in collaboration with the European Commission.
‘It’s time to discuss Europe’s future – A first Draft Blueprint for the Conference on the Future of Europe’, Corina Stratulat, 02/12/2019
To ensure von der Leyen’s Conference on the Future of Europe becomes more than an empty promise, this Draft Blueprint proposes a first, concrete draft outline for the process, putting European citizen’s front and centre. Our strategy is complex, resource-intensive, and bound to a tight timeline. Nevertheless, without carefully sequenced interaction and scrutiny between many actors, across many levels and on different key topics, and without weaving participatory instruments into the process, in the spirit of transparency, innovation, and inclusiveness, the implementation of the CoFoE will be found lacking.
Citizens will play a vital part in the Conference But how exactly should they be able to participate? In order to make participatory democracy a reality, it is essential to avoid only paying lip-service to the idea of participation — and give citizens a real say.
In 2018 as part of the European Citizens Consultations the European Commission brought together 100 citizens from all 27 EU Member States to discuss the future of Europe. The Bertelsmann Stiftung helped to design the event and asked participants about this unparalleled endeavour.