The presidents of the EU institutions pledged to act on citizens' ideas for EU change after receiving the final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The document, including 49 proposals with more than 300 measures adopted by the Conference plenary on 30 April, was presented at a closing event for the Conference on 9 May - Europe Day - in Strasbourg.
Speaking at the ceremony, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament; Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission; and French president Emmanuel Macron, representing the Council, acknowledged that some of the most ambitious proposals would require changes to the EU treaties.
“We are once again at a defining moment of European integration and no suggestion for change should be off limits. Whatever process is required in order for us to get there should be embraced,” said Metsola.
MEPs already called for the procedure for treaty change to be triggered in a resolution adopted on 4 May. The process might require forming a convention bringing together representatives of the European Parliament, Council and the Commission as well as national parliaments to propose treaty change.
“There is a gap between what people expect and what Europe is able to deliver at the moment. That is why we need a convention as the next step. There are issues that simply cannot wait,” Metsola added.
The way forward
Macron, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council, said reforming the treaties would allow the EU to “move forward towards more simplicity” and would “provide legitimacy to the democratic control” launched by the Conference.
He spoke in favour of taking decisions by qualified majority rather than unanimity in Council: “We know the way to go: to continue to generalise qualified majority voting in our decisions for our main public policies."
Commission President von der Leyen pledged to work on new proposals based on the citizens’ recommendations and to present them in September, when she delivers her annual State of the European Union address.
“There is already a lot we can do without delay and that also goes for those recommendations, which will need us to take new action,” she said, stressing that many measures proposed by citizens can already be implemented within the current treaties.
Speakers at the event called for finding ways to directly involve citizens in EU decision-making in a permanent manner.
“It is my firm belief that, beyond elections, we need to institutionalise direct citizens’ participation as an antidote to division in society,” said Conference co-chair Guy Verhofstadt.
The urgency to reform the EU has become even more evident with the Russian war against Ukraine, the presidents of the EU institutions said.
The world now is “more dangerous” and “Europe’s role has changed”, said Metsola. “The future of Europe is tied to the future of Ukraine. The threat we face is real. And the cost of failure is momentous,” she added.
The Conference’s final report comes following a year of meetings and grassroots events across the EU, in which hundreds and thousands of people took part. The report is based on ideas submitted on the Conference's website and recommendations by European and national citizens’ panels.
Proposals include calls for giving the European Parliament a right of legislative initiative, removing unanimity in the Council on foreign policy, establishing a right to health care for all EU citizen, a shift in energy production towards renewables, and improving education on environmental issues, digital technologies, soft skills and EU values.
“When I’m 65, in 2070, I would like to tell my grandchildren that many of the positive changes in Europe emerged from this unique exercise,” said 16-year-old Camille Girard, from France, one of the youngest participants in the Conference.
More than 43,000 contributions were recorded on the website of the Conference.
Check out the final report of the Conference