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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, many thanks for this opportunity to engage with you on the Conference on the Future of Europe. I think that your feedback is very important to our work and I really do appreciate what I heard today. I appreciate your contributions and your will to make the Conference happen, so thank you once again.

Let me remind ourselves that when the Commission communication shaping the Conference was adopted on 22 January earlier this year, the Union was in the seventh consecutive year of growth and forecasts pointed to an expansion in 2020-2021. Today, with millions of citizens slowly coming out of confinement and the global recession unfolding, the perspective has radically changed. However, our determination to engage with citizens and ensure their voice is heard has not changed from that moment.

A key message from me today is that the Conference on the Future of Europe remains crucial. In fact, I would go so far as to say that because of the pandemic, it is now more important than ever before. European citizens should have greater say on what the Union does and how it works for them. Answering the difficult questions helps to save lives. Let me stress that we want the Conference to be an open, inclusive and transparent and structured debate.

I referred earlier to the Commission communication on the Conference. The principles stated in it are still valid. The Conference should allow citizens to focus on what they consider to be important. The Commission’s political priorities and the European Council Strategic Agenda provide a broad framework. Having already held many dialogues with citizens, I am convinced that issues such as healthcare and the European Union’s response to the public health crisis will now have a more prominent role in the dialogues among citizens.

Despite challenging circumstances, we aim to launch the Conference on the Future of Europe as soon as possible. Or, as Ms McGuinness said just now, once the Council has adopted its mandate, we can agree on a joint declaration. We are committed to follow up on what is agreed by the Conference. This will be the measure of our success and I commit to it fully.

Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, I was on a listening tour of the European Union. I had planned to visit all 27 Member States but I did only 10. In the first six months of my mandate, in my mission, I was focusing on national and regional examples of where citizens are structurally involved in decision-making processes because getting the feedback mechanism will be key for the Conference on the Future of Europe this time. A feedback mechanism is one of the most important things in this Conference and this is different from previous consultations.

We need to make sure that ideas found in local discussions can be meaningfully discussed at European level. Just like the honourable Members today said, I insist that the Conference on the Future of Europe must be representative of geography, gender, age, socioeconomic background and level of education of citizens. It must also be inclusive of minority populations. All are part of our Europe’s diversity.

It is important to keep an open mind. As I have said to you before, I believe that we should not predetermine the outcome. This is what we agreed many, many months ago, so we should not predetermine outcome or restrict the issues for discussion.

This is an important moment for us. We have the potential to lay the ground for a new type of politics, for a new dynamic to complement representative democracy together. Only together can we do this. Together, we can reinforce the link between European Union policymaking and the citizens’ increased trust. Increased trust, increased legitimacy. Let us make the Conference on the Future of Europe a real success for our citizens.

Thank you once again for your contributions and I’m looking forward to the Council agreeing on a joint declaration and then we can start; I think September would be the best timing to start this. Thank you once again.

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