Written by Silvia Kotanidis,

© iQoncept / Adobe Stock

After many debates and statements of principle in recent years, the time for a more structured discussion on the future of Europe’s development has arrived. The Conference on the Future of Europe, announced by the Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen in her inaugural address, is set to start after a long period of standstill owing not only to changed priorities brought by the coronavirus pandemic, but also to lengthy negotiations among the institutions.

The aim of the conference is to debate how the EU should develop in the future, identify where it is rising to the challenges of current times, and enhance those areas that need reform or strengthening. A key aspect of this initiative is to bring the public closer to the EU institutions, listen to people’s concerns, involve them directly in the process of the Conference and provide an adequate and meaningful response. In this respect, the ambition is to set up pan-European forums for discussion, for the first time ever, where citizens of all Member States can debate the EU’s priorities and make recommendations, to be taken into account by the political-institutional powers that be and, ideally, translated into practical measures.

The pandemic hit as the preparation of the conference was just beginning and inevitably caused a delay. In March 2021, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission agreed on a joint declaration, laying down the common rules and principles governing the conference. It was agreed that the leadership of the conference would be shared by the three institutions, with the conference chaired jointly by their three presidents.

The Conference on the Future of Europe has all the prerequisites to be an excellent opportunity to engage in a more structured debate between institutions and citizens, and arrive at concrete proposals to improve the way the EU works, in terms not only of institutional dynamics, but also of policies. Some have cautioned however that the initiative must be conducted with the utmost care, in particular as regards the follow-up, so that it remains a meaningful endeavour.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Conference on the Future of Europe‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.