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Wednesday, 17 June 2020 - Brussels Revised edition

Conference on the Future of Europe (debate)

  Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the Commission. – Madam President, last time I had the opportunity to address this House on the Conference on the Future of Europe was on 15 January, a few short months ago. Since then, our world has changed significantly.

We are not yet out of the crisis, so we cannot be certain of the impact that this will have on our work for the moment. My key message to you today is that the Conference on the Future of Europe is now more important than ever before. It is an exercise in democratic participation, which showcases the European way. Our common rights and values are central to the resilience of our societies and will be the basis on which we build our recovery from the corona crisis. I am convinced that we must continue to move forward together with ambition and vision.

I see my job as reaching out to each and every European citizen. The COVID—19 pandemic shows us the importance of solidarity. It has also shown how together we can recover, repair and come out stronger from this crisis, as President von der Leyen recently said here in this very Chamber. I agree and would add that only together can we build the present and the future that citizens deserve. And please note this: the present and the future.

The Commission has proposed a clear, structured plan that aims to lead us out of crisis and into sustainable and long-term economic growth, based on a green transition and a digital transformation, as requested by the European Council. The recently-announced comprehensive package for European recovery, with its overall budget of EUR 1.85 trillion, will help Europe recover from the crisis and support multiple European sectors as we emerge from this period of constraint. This includes major initiatives like Next Generation EU, which will boost the European budget in the first crucial years of the recovery and contribute, together with the reinforced budget for 2021—2027, to making it sustainable, inclusive and fair for everyone, including those in disadvantaged areas and those who were hit hard by the crisis. Together we will come out of the crisis.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is an excellent tool to engage and involve all Europeans. I look forward to the joint declaration by the Parliament, the Council and the Commission and later – as soon as possible – to launching the Conference on the Future of Europe. Let’s be honest. Politics is no longer business as usual. We must be brave, have the courage of our convictions and deliver for the citizens. They demand it of us and we have a mandate to respond. We need to strengthen our representative democracy even more by offering an opportunity for enhanced participative democracy.

I rely on your support for making this joint declaration a reality as soon as possible. We need to agree on the structure, scope and main principles of the Conference and establish principles for those who want to become our partners in this exercise. Yesterday, at the COSAC meeting, the national parliaments made it clear that they want to be partners in this joint endeavour, and we need to consolidate this partnership approach. We are not competing for influence here. We need to work together to be able to reach out to as many citizens as possible. They count upon the Council of Ministers to reach an agreement on a mandate to enable us to start as soon as possible the negotiations on the joint declaration so that the Conference can be launched as soon as possible. This is the Commission standpoint.

In this context, I would like to say a few words on democracy and the Conference on the Future of Europe. During these times, people feel left behind. They blame democracy itself sometimes. While unfortunate, this also shows the importance of democracy and its relevance in our daily lives. Who present here today could have imagined the way in which COVID—19 has infected our European Union in so many different ways at so many different levels? Surely this current crisis shows now more than ever that democracy and democratic institutions have a key role to play.

We understand that citizens’ trust in democracy cannot and should not ever be taken for granted. Citizens have been asking for greater participation in policy-making, and we need to listen to this call. By involving citizens and civil society even more, we will help to reinforce democracy in the European Union. Let us have the courage to put innovative tools to work for democracy and citizens, starting with the Conference on the Future of Europe.

To conclude, I will end by reminding you why we are having the Conference on the Future of Europe. It is for the current and the next generations of Europeans. Together we – citizens and institutions – will find ways to give Europeans a greater say on what the Union does and how it works for them. Let us have the courage to make a success of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

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