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WiseEuropa: Green, digital, more united - what vision of the Union will the Conference on the Future of Europe bring?
Event report available
[EVENT HELD IN POLISH] On behalf of WiseEuropa, warsaw-based think tank, we kindly invite you to the webinar "Green, digital, more united - what vision of the Union will the Conference on the Future of Europe bring?". By convening the Conference, the EU institutions wish to give European citizens and citizens the opportunity to speak up on the most pressing political challenges facing the Union and its future shape. The conference also aims to strengthen European democracy, involve citizens in European decision-making processes and build a European demos and transnational public debate. The most important topics of discussion will certainly be the climate crisis - the greatest challenge of our time, as well as the challenges of digital transformation. Panelists: Izabela Zygmunt, Senior Analyst, WiseEuropa Agnieszka Smoleńska, Senior Analyst for European Affairs, Polityka Insight Jolanta Szymańska, Program Coordinator: European Union, Polish Institute of International Affairs Marcin Kędzierski, Chief Expert of the Analysis Center of the Jagiellonian Club Moderator: Aleksander Śniegocki, Energy, Climate and Environment Program Manager, WiseEuropa
Event reportOrganized by the WiseEuropa Institute on 6 May, the online event was dedicated to the Conference on the Future of Europe - a series of debates and discussions planned for the year in which European citizens have the opportunity to speak on the most pressing challenges facing the Union and its future. Three days before the official inauguration of the Conference, representatives of leading Polish think tanks invited to the discussion by WiseEuropa talked about the possible impact of the Conference on changes taking place in the European Union. The discussion was moderated by Aleksander Śniegocki, Program Manager Energy, Climate and Environment, WiseEuropa. Dr. Jolanta Szymańska, Program Coordinator: The European Union at the Polish Institute of International Affairs spoke about whether the Conference actually gives a chance to develop new institutional solutions. She stressed that despite the pandemic, European integration will continue, but the Conference itself will not necessarily play a major role in the further integration process. She emphasized that it would probably not be a forum for initiating reforms, but rather for consulting them with citizens. In recent years, attempts have already been made to reflect on the challenges facing Europe. Currently, the discussion will rather not focus on institutional issues, and sectoral policies (such as climate, health or digital policy) will occupy a much more important place. Currently, health policy is what citizens are of particular interest to, and it is an area where citizens see great potential for further integration of the Union. The expectations of the Polish government towards the Conference are quite limited, and the formula of the Conference itself does not take into account the direct participation of the governments of the member states - unlike in the previous edition. Dr. Marcin Kędzierski, the main expert of the Center for Analysis of the Jagiellonian Club, spoke about the major changes that have been taking place in the EU since the financial crisis in 2008, which was made even worse by the pandemic. He noted that although the polls for populist parties have fallen, this does not mean that this will be a permanent phenomenon. A short overview of what is happening in individual countries of the European Union shows that the European Union has made a huge leap forward in terms of integration, but the situation may change precisely because of the internal situation of the Member States. However, the epidemic created an opportunity for the Union to show that it is a global leader. It is also possible that after the pandemic there will be groups of citizens who will want to solve their problems only at the local level due to the lack of trust in both national and supranational EU structures. Ultimately, according to Dr. Kędzierski, the Conference will not be able to give citizens a sense of the greater role of democracy in Europe. Dr. Agnieszka Smoleńska, a senior analyst for European affairs at Polityka Insight, spoke about the digital dimension of integration. In the past, events similar to the Conference were quite hermetic, but this time we see a wish to be different. The EU is trying to turn the difficulties related to the lack of physical meetings with citizens into its success by using various digital tools. There are quite a lot of events on the Conference platform, organized by both pro-European and more Eurosceptic organizations. At the same time, the Union is already taking decisions, e.g. in the area of digital policy, such as the issue of regulating digital giants, competition policy or the ever closer implementation of a digital tax. Dr. Smoleńska agreed with the previous speaker that the direction of the changes depends on the political context of the Member States, but some changes have already taken place and it will be difficult to reverse them. Izabela Zygmunt, a senior analyst at the WiseEuropa Institute, pointed out that it is not the vision of specific institutional reforms that is at stake in this Conference, but rather building a closer relationship between the Union and its citizens. At present, climate issues are becoming a very serious problem for EU citizens. This is the ground where citizens can come to an understanding with the EU's European Green Deal policy. The conference is a step towards involving citizens in the debate - not as passive audience or observers, but as active participants. True, we do not know how the position of populist or Eurosceptic movements will change. However, the conference has the potential to attract EU societies and involve them in this discussion, as previously citizens lacked the feeling that they were heard, that they could co-decide and influence what Brussels was doing. Summing up the discussion, Aleksander Śniegocki pointed to the high dynamics and unpredictability of changes at the level of the Member States and the entire EU, which may put us at a completely different point in the discussion on the future of Europe next year at the end of the Conference. At the same time, he encouraged to follow the Conference website (https://futureu.europa.eu/) and to co-create it. Summary and webinar recording available in Polish: https://wise-europa.eu/2021/05/12/webinar-zielona-cyfrowa-bardziej-zjednoczona-jaka-wizje-unii-przyniesie-konferencja-o-przyszlosci-europy-podsumowanie/
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