Committee MEPs discussed priorities in relation to the upcoming Conference with one Parliament and two Commission VPs, experts and representatives of EU bodies.

The Constitutional Affairs committee public hearing of 4 December featured a long list of speakers, including Parliament’s Vice-President Othmar Karas (EPP, AT), EESC President Luca Jahier, COR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz and a range of academia and civil society experts. The last two guest speakers to take the floor were the two competent European Commission Vice-Presidents: Dubravka Šuica (Democracy and Demography) and Věra Jourová (Values and Transparency).

Following each round of speakers, committee MEPs debated specific points of interest and asked pertinent questions. Among guest speakers and committee MEPs, there was broad agreement that the Conference should be

  • allowed to set its own priorities in line with citizen concerns
  • defined in a way to enable concrete action to be taken in line with its conclusions
  • anticipate treaty review to the degree necessary
  • respect the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity.

Speakers also agreed that the Conference should include all social groups and political leanings, especially those who are not immediately attracted to this kind of debate and those who are distrustful towards the EU.

Other key points discussed included the establishment of structures to enable national, regional and local stakeholder participation (from elected representatives to civil society organisations), electoral reform, and priorities such as climate change, defence, migration, social welfare, and labour policies.

Most MEPs welcomed the very positive approach of the Commission to the issue and commended the Council’s willingness to discuss the Conference. Commission representatives and MEPs agreed that a framework structure for the Conference will need to be agreed between the EU institutions as soon as possible.

The Commission Vice-Presidents also proposed an immediate start for those proposals and reforms that can already be undertaken and the adoption of conference conclusions and production of related legislative initiatives on a rolling basis throughout the Conference’s duration. Depending on the complexity of the proposed reforms, the initial target is for those to be implemented in anticipation of the 2024 European elections.

You can catch up with the entire debate here: part 1 and part 2.

Next steps

The Constitutional Affairs committee will hold an extraordinary meeting on 9 December in Brussels (18.00 - 20.00) to finalise its suggestions on the structure, objectives and agenda of the upcoming Conference.

Background

The Conference on the Future of Europe, which is expected to start in 2020 and run for two years, is among the most prominent proposals of the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.