#TheFutureIsYours Transversal and cross-cutting issues
Lisbon European citizens’ event
A European citizens' event, organised by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU also in the framework of the Conference, will be held on 17 June 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal, and livestreamed online. This will be composed of 27 representatives from national Citizens' Panels or national events (one per Member State), as well as the President of the European Youth Forum and a number of the citizens already selected for the European-level Citizens' Panels. The event, also organised in hybrid format, will give participants the opportunity to discuss their expectations from the Conference with the three Co-Chairs. These participants will also attend the inaugural Plenary in Strasbourg.
Discussions with citizens in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe started today at a European citizens' event held in Lisbon, Portugal. The event took place in a hybrid format and brought together the 27 representatives from national Citizens' Panels or national events (one per Member State, 10 present and 17 remote), the President of the European Youth Forum, more than 50 citizens already selected for the European Citizens' Panels (remote), as well as Erasmus students for a discussion with Co-Chairs of the Conference’s Executive Board – Member of European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt, Portuguese Secretary of State for EU Affairs Ana Paula Zacarias, and Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica. The event was moderated by Daniela Ferreira Pinto. Participants discussed their expectations for the Conference and were able to address their questions to the Co-Chairs. There was a constructive exchange with a number of concrete ideas brought forward and the event concluded on a positive note with participants associating ‘hope’ with Europe’s future.
Co-chair Ana Paula Zacarias welcomed participants underlining the importance of starting the process ahead of the inaugural Plenary on 19 June with citizens: the Conference is about listening to citizens and using the proposals to change Europe. She underlined that crisis has often been an occasion for reform and that this is an opportunity to think about the Europe we want and how we want to address many of the open questions we are facing right now.
Co-Chair Dubravka Šuica stressed the pan-European character of the exercise and the importance of citizens in democracy, the need to get closer to citizens and to empower them. She emphasized that this is a pioneering exercise, something that has never been done like this before, with all institutions working together. The three ‘P’s’ – Platform, Panels and Plenaries – are the core pillars of the Conference.
Co-Chair Verhofstadt stressed that this is very different from the past exercises, the objective is to involve citizens actively and to give them a real role in making the Union fit for purpose for the world of tomorrow and in defining Europe’s place in the world.
In a first Sli.Do Poll participants expressed what they associate with the EU’s future, with words such as solidarity, unity, youth, union, cooperation and challenge being mentioned by many.
Co-chair Ana Paula Zacarias introduced the national events, explaining that some will be organised by Governments, others by civil society organisations and stressing that the more there are and the more diverse they are the better. She encouraged everyone to upload the outcome of events on the platform and explained that panels and the plenary will bring all these elements together. Portugal has established a national Commission bringing together many different players and is planning 10 events until March; many Member States have events planned.
The following issues were raised in the first round of discussion:
- To which extent will the Conference really involve citizens and how can people be more involved beyond posting ideas on the platform?
- What is the ambition and commitment of the institutions to follow-up on the outcome?
- What can Europe do if Member States do not agree and do not share the same values?
Co-Chairs underlined the clear commitment of the Joint Presidency in the Joint Declaration and the fact that ideas will be discussed in the Plenary, so that citizens’ will know what happens to their ideas. The importance of diversity and acceptance of other views was stressed.
Digital Platform and European Citizens Panels
Co-chair Dubravka Šuica introduced the Digital Platform and European Citizens Panels and stressed in particular the many options to get involved offered by the platform - to share ideas, organise events and comment on other people ideas and all of this in all 24 languages. A short video was shown to demonstrate the platform: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-204289
The following issues were raised in the second round of discussion:
- The need for diversity and intercultural learning was stressed with the suggestion to have a common European high school programme and a recognition of high school qualifications.
- Doubts as to whether there will be a real discussion and exchange and some criticism to the arrangements for chairing Plenary Working Groups by institutional players.
- The need to address young people that are not convinced of Europe and are marginalised.
- That alienation of democratic institutions is a bigger, worldwide problem and the importance of a value and philosophy based discussion, not just a scientific one.
- The possible need for Treaty change.
- The need to build a real European culture and identity and how to do that.
- A real marketing problem of the Conference and the need to put much more energy into reaching also the sceptical people that are not even thinking about what can change. The Conference is seen as an opportunity and a risk and responsibility at the same time.
- The need to reach a maximum number of people and to use local initiatives. The importance of the topic of ‘demographic change’.
- A need to take up discussions on migration and quotas again, possibly using enhanced cooperation.
- Worries about future employment possibilities and the suggestion of recognition of studies to be able to work everywhere in the EU.
Co-Chairs explained that Treaty change was not explicitly mentioned, but also not excluded in the Joint Declaration. The focus should now be on what the vision is and only then on whether Treaty change is needed, a lot can also be done without. They recognised the importance of a joint understanding of underlying European values and stressed the importance of demographic change as a topic. They agreed that a lot more needs to be done to communicate the Conference and asked everyone to be part of that and contribute. Many citizens are not at all aware what the EU does for them (the imagine was used to paint everything blue that comes from the EU).
Co-chair Guy Verhofstadt presented the Conference Plenary, which will start its work on 19 June. He stressed the role that the representatives of the citizen’s panels and other citizens in the Plenary will play and that the input of the citizens will be the basis for discussions. Conclusions of the Plenary will be difficult to not take into account, there will be a pressure to implement.
The following issues were raised in the third round of discussion:
- The important role of education as a powerful tool and the suggestion of a European curriculum addressing issues such as climate change and migration as well as more support for youth institutions.
- A struggling civil society in Europe that lacks support and the role of civil society in the Conference.
- Criticisms of a migration policy that is not satisfactory and means that migrants - even after having lived for a long time in the EU - do not have the same changes and opportunities.
- Questions on how to also convince more euro sceptical people and older people and to explain the value of the EU to them, trust in politicians is often missing.
- The need to make the Conference better known, for example via social media.
A second Sli.Do polls asked which word participants associate with the EU’s future and with the EU today and the main word here was ‘hope’, this was shared by the Co-Chairs in their conclusions.
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