Widely ignored future of Europe conference returns to center stage – EURACTIV.com


The Council on the Future of Europe, proposed by now-outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to solve the rule of law problems in Poland, has received little attention. But that doesn’t mean the attendees weren’t busy.

As much of the EU’s discourse in recent weeks has been dominated by rule of law disputes in Poland and Hungary, the situation has been exacerbated following a controversial Supreme Court ruling Polish, which commentators have compared to a “legal Polexit”.

“The Conference on the Future of Europe is actually a good place to discuss,” Merkel said as she entered the European Council on Thursday (October 21).

She also suggested that CoFoE is a good place to talk about “how individual members see the European Union”. Despite this, even though the conference held its first plenary on October 23, it failed to make many waves.

“The first three rows should be VIPs or guests; few of them are here, ”said Mark Plesko, representative of Slovenian national panels, adding that the high level lack of interest in the conference“ is an excellent metaphor for the European Union ”.

According to the European Commission, the conference was the epicenter of some 3,000 events attended by over 140,000 participants.

Sadly, not only was this plagued by representation issues, very few EU citizens participated via the digital platform.

“We have nearly 22,500 participants [those who create an account] on the platform, ”said conference co-chair Guy Verhofstadt. As the platform received 3.5 million unique visitors, the contribution rate is relatively low.

Of the 22,500 people who attended the conference, most were men.

“The second interim report shows that only 15% of registered participants are women,” said Elsie Gisslegard, representative of the Swedish national panels. For the digital platform to reach its “true democratic potential”, it would need to be used equally.

As for the results of the conference, it is still unclear whether they will have a role to play.

Are citizens and leaders aligned?

While Merkel made citizens debate the question of the rule of law and the vision of each nation in the European Union, the subjects of “climate change and environment” and “European democracy” aroused the most interest.

Almost all other topics like the role of the EU in the world and ‘a stronger economy, social justice and jobs’ sparked more activity and sparked more debate. These topics appear to be perceived as more relevant to EU citizens.

One of the most common themes was “a more social Europe and how more social rights can improve the lives of normal workers,” said Eoin Stafford, representing Irish national panels, noting talking points from fellow Irish people.

He explained that “the EU’s recovery plan could help enormously to exit the COVID crisis by creating jobs, but at the same time ensuring the protection of social rights”, which he would aim to stress. in its working group.

Whether the long-planned CoFoE, which has garnered little attention since Europe Day on May 9, is able to deliver the liberating blow to the rule of law that Merkel seems to be hoping for is debatable, as of other topics such as climate change, health, and social issues dominated the agenda of the first CoFoE plenary.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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