Written by Silvia Kotanidis and Giulio Sabbati.
The Conference’s multilingual platform is a hub giving European citizens and European civil society organisations the opportunity to share ideas on the future of Europe, and to host and attend events. It will act as a repository of contributions and documents, and as an interactive tool to share and debate ideas of citizens. The platform is open to citizens, civil society, social partners, other stakeholders, public authorities at EU and national, regional, local level.
European Citizens’ Panels
These are vital bodies of the Conference, tasked with debating issues that matter to citizens. The composition of European citizens’ panels (± 200 citizens chosen at random) will be transnational and representative of the EU population, not only with respect to gender but also age, socio-economic background, geographic origin and level of education, with 1/3 of participants between 16 and 25 years of age. The European citizens’ panels will hold debates, including on the basis of contributions from the digital platform, and feed into the discussion of the Conference plenary with recommendations for the EU institutions to follow up. Four thematic citizens’ panels are planned: i) European democracy/values, rights, rule of law, security; ii) climate change, environment/health; iii) stronger economy, social justice, jobs/education, youth, culture, sport/digital transformation; and iv) EU in the world/migration.
European citizens’ panels will meet in deliberative sessions, in different locations and will be dedicated to specific themes. Member States (at national, regional or local level) and other stakeholders (civil society, social partners or citizens) may organise additional citizens’ panels under the umbrella of the Conference, provided they respect the Conference Charter in full.
The Conference is under the tripartite authority of the Presidents of the European Parliament, Council of the EU and Commission, respectively David Sassoli, António Costa, representing the Portuguese Presidency of the Council until 30 June 2021, and Ursula von der Leyen. Based on the rotation established by Council Decision, the Presidency of the Council will then be held by Slovenia (1 July–31 December 2021) and France (1 January–30 June 2022). The tripartite Presidency of the Conference is the ultimate body to which the final outcome of the Conference will be reported, so that each institution may provide the appropriate follow-up in accordance with their own competences.
The plenary comprises a total of 433 representatives, from the three institutions (Commission, Council of the EU and Parliament), national parliaments, citizens’ panels, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), national events or panels, social partners and civil society. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be invited when the international role of the EU is discussed. Other stakeholders and experts may also be invited.
The plenary will discuss issues and recommendations coming from national and European citizens’ panels as well as input from the digital platform, grouped by themes. Debates will be open, without a predetermined outcome and without limiting topics to pre-defined policy areas. The plenary decides on a consensual basis (at least between the Parliament, Council, Commission and the national parliaments) on the proposals to be put forward to the Executive Board. The latter is responsible for drafting the final report of the Conference, in full collaboration and in full transparency with the Plenary, which will be published on the digital platform and sent to the Joint Presidency for concrete follow-up.
The Executive Board manages the work of the conference (plenaries, citizens’ panels, and digital platform), oversees all activities, and prepares meetings of the plenary, including input from citizens, and their follow-up. All three institutions (Parliament, Commission and Council) are equally represented in the Executive Board, each with three members and up to four observers. The Executive Board is co-chaired by a representative of each of the three institutions; in the Council’s case by the rotating presidency. The presidential troika of COSAC (the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of EU national parliaments) have permanent observer status. The EESC and CoR also have observer status. The co-chairs can propose the creation of thematic working groups; a group will cover each of the nine topics. The Executive Board may invite experts to participate in events of the Conference.
A common secretariat composed of equal numbers of staff of the European Parliament, General Secretariat of the Council and the Commission, assists the Executive Board in the organisation of the Conference plenary and the European citizens’ panels
Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘The Conference on the Future of Europe‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.