EU leaders at their Brussels summit endorsed the idea of holding a two-year conference on what to expect from Europe in future, what reforms should be undertaken to ensure the rise of trust in the Union and its place in world.
'Conference on the Future of Europe
' will be served by the Council, the European Commission and European Parliament. It will be head by former Belgian Prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, and in the EC it will fall under the Croatian Commissioner Dubravka Šuica.
It will kick off in the beggining of 2020, during the Croatian presidency, and will end in 2022, during the rotating French presidency
, hopefully with viable conclusions.
Phase one will last to the end of summer 2020 and will focus on cross-European democracy (esp. regarding elections and designations in key positions – e.g. transnational lists and lead candidate system, issues related to citizens’ participation in EU institutions/matters).
Phase two will focus on policy priorities. It will begin in the second part of 2020, during German presidency.
Ahead of the summit, Franco-German paper
has been sent to all Member States. The short document is understood as a basis for the agenda of themes that the Conference will tackle.
Franco-German paper calls for the broadest possible participation - along Member States, and European institutions, also experts/civil society such as academia, think tanks, professional unions and organisations. It will be advised by a small steering group, supported by a permanent secretariat.
On the agenda should also be Europe’s role in the world and its security/defence, neighborhood, digitalisation, climate change issues, migration, fight against inequalities, our “social market economy” model (including social rights, industrial and innovation policy, trade, EMU, competitiveness), the rule of law and European values.
During their summit, Member States have emphasised that priority should be given to policies rather than reforms of institutions. They fear that the Conference could lose itself in endless debate on how to organize institutions, and they would rather hear ideas on the policies from the citizens, carried out bottom up.
Therefore, Conference should focus on policies and identify, by blocks of policies, the main reforms to implement as a matter of priority, setting out the types of changes to be made (legal – incl. possible treaty change, financial, organizational etc.). The summit has conveyed a message that "all member states should be involved "equally" in the conference and has also called on active involvement of national parliaments.
In addition, the European Parliament holds its own debate on the conference. It aims to have an MEP as chair of the conference. Former Belgian prime minister and MEP Guy Verhofstadt has been mentioned by parliament sources as a candidate for the position.