Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe

In “A New Push for European Democracy”

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To revitalise the EU project, in 2019 President von der Leyen proposed a Conference on the Future of Europe. The conference was inaugurated on 9 May 2021 in a transnational, hybrid event and concluded on 9 May 2022. A long period of preparation was necessary due to the outbreak of the pandemic and to difficulties in agreeing on the chair of the conference among the three institutions.

The Conference conclusions were drawn up by the Executive Board, based on the Conference’s plenary discussions and proposals, and acting on a consensual basis in full collaboration with the plenary. This led to 49 proposals containing overall 326 specific measures which were ultimately endorsed by the Conference plenary on 9 May 2022.

On 10 June 2022 Council issued a first preliminary technical assessment of the final recommendations, on 17 June 2022 the Commission issued a Communication on how to implement the results of the Conference. On 4 May 2022, Parliament adopted a resolution on the follow-up to the Conference calling for a convention for the revision of the Treaties as provided in Article 48 TEU. Parliament in a resolution on 9 June proposed more concrete treaty changes i.e. qualified majority voting for Council decisions instead of unanimity in relevant areas (sanctions, passerelle clauses, and emergency situations); adaptation of Union competences in the areas of health and cross-border health threats, in the completion of the energy union based on energy efficiency and renewable energies, in defense, and in social and economic policies; implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and incorporation of social progress in Article 9 TFEU linked to a Social Progress Protocol into the Treaties; to support strengthening the competitiveness and resilience of the EU economy, with special attention paid to small and medium-sized enterprises and competitiveness checks and to promote future-oriented investments focused on the just, green and digital transitions; to provide Parliament with full co-decision rights on the EU budget, and with the right to initiate, amend or repeal legislation; to strengthen the protection of EU values and clarify the determination and consequences of breaches of fundamental values (Article 7 TEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union). 

At the State of the Union address of 14 September 2022, President von der Leyen declared to be in favour of a European Convention and announced that the Citizens' Panels that were central to the CoFoE will become a regular feature of Eu's democratic life. She then communicated that Citizens’ Panels will be used as Commission's policy making toolbox to give recommendations before the adoption of a policy proposals. One third of participants will be young people. In the Work Program for 2023, the Commission reported that 43 new initiatives are either directly or indirectly a follow up of the proposals of Conference on the Future of Europe. Within the General Affairs Council (GAC), in October 2022 Ministers decided to wait that Parliament concludes its works on an AFCO report detailing the amendments to the treaties before deciding whether to convene a Convention under Article 48 TEU. 

The Report detailing Parliament's proposal for the amendment of the treaties 2022/2051(INL) was discussed in AFCO on 14 September 2023 and the resolution was adopted by Parliament on 22 November 2023. The resolution stresses that Treaty change is not an end in itself, but a bid to improve the Union, enhancing its capacity to act and shoring up its democratic legitimacy and accountability. The reform should help the EU tackle geopolitical challenges and equip it for enlargement. The proposed 245 Treaty amendments, concern various areas of EU law. On institutional matters, among others, it is proposed that Council's default voting system should be a qualified majority except when simple or reinforced majority apply. The Commission would become the executive of the EU. Parliament would gain powers, such as that of legislative initiative on matters covered by the ordinary legislative procedure (OLP), subject to informing the Commission. In particular, it would gain excusive competence on its composition (majority of component members subject to Council’s consent by reinforced majority). A majority of Parliament's members could pass a motion of censure against the executive, while Parliament may table a motion of censure of an individual member of the executive. The report proposes to extend the list of EU exclusive competences to include the conclusion of international agreements in the context of global negotiation on climate change. The report also proposes to extend the shared competences to include public health matters, protection and improvement of human health, especially cross-border health threats, reproductive health; cross border infrastructure; external border policy in the area of freedom security and justice; foreign affairs; external security and defence; industry; civil protection; and transnational education-related issues, such as recognition of diplomas, grades, skills and qualifications. On the rule of law procedure (Article 7 TEU), it is proposed that the Council should be able to act by QMV to establish the existence of a risk of a serious breach of EU values by a Member State and should decide within 6 months by QMV to submit an application to the Court of Justice (ECJ) for a serious and persistent breach. Parliament could also make such a proposal for a referral to the Council. On common foreign and security policy, Parliament proposes a generalised QMV for Council or EUCO decisions. The report also proposes to establish a defence union, including a permanent rapid deployment capacity under the operational command of the EU. Decisions on common security and defence policy would be adopted by QMV, subject to Parliament's consent.

To implement Parliament's proposals the ordinary revision procedure will be needed.

References:

Further readings:

  • European Parliament, EPRS, Conference on the Future of Europe: Overview of the final proposals, Briefing, November 2022
  • European Parliament, EXPO and IPOL, EU in the world / Migration | Citizens’ recommendations and the EU context: Panel 4 of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Study, March 2022
  • European Parliament, IPOL, Stronger economy, social justice, jobs, education, culture, sport, digital transformation | Citizens’ recommendations and the EU context: Panel 1 of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Study, March 2022
  • European Parliament, EPRS, EXPO and IPOL, European democracy/values and rights, rule of Law, security | Citizens' recommendations and the EU context: Panel 2 of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Study, February 2022
  •  European Parliament, EPRS, EXPO, IPOL, Climate change, environment and health  | Citizens' recommendations and the EU context: Panel 3 of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Study, February 2022
  • European Parliament, EPRS, The Conference on the Future of Europe, Infographic, January 2022
  • European Parliament, EPRS, Citizens' engagement and expectations of the Conference on the future of Europe, Briefing, September 2021
  • European Parliament, EPRS, Conference on the Future of Europe, Topical Digest, May 2021
  • European Parliament, EPRS, Conference on the Future of Europe, Briefing, June 2020
  • European Parliament, EPRS, Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe, Briefing, December 2019

Author: Silvia Kotanidis, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/01/2024.