On 19 June, the first plenary session of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) was held in Strasbourg. Democracy International joined partners from the Citizens Take Over Europe coalition in organizing two actions demanding better inclusion of citizens and civil society organizations in the EU democratic process.
The largest European democratic exercise so far is in full swing. The EU institutions pledged to make citizens’ voices heard by designing a multilingual digital platform offering each citizen a chance to share ideas about the European future. The ideas are then discussed at Citizens’ Panels after which all collected contributions are presented at the Conference Plenary in the form of a set of recommendations for the EU to follow-up on.
On June 19, 108 representatives of the European Parliament, 54 representatives of the Council (two from each Member State), three representatives of the European Commission, 108 representatives of national parliaments and citizens met at the inaugural plenary session in the building of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to discuss the purpose and expectations of the Conference.
Within the Citizens Take Over Europe coalition, we promote a citizens-centred European democracy starting with a democratic, transparent, and participatory Conference on the Future of Europe. However, we believe that the current way the Conference operates does not meet some basic principles that would ensure a central role of citizens at the Conference.
We voiced our opinion by organising two actions. Several coalition members gathered in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg before the Plenary to show the support of civil society organizations for greater and more meaningful citizens’ involvement in the Conference and decision-making process. Our members had the opportunity to convey these proposals to MEPs Daniel Freund and Helmut Scholz who showed their support for CSOs struggle for more transparency and equality in citizens representation.
In an Open Letter to the Executive Board of the Conference, the CTOE called for a larger incusion of marginalised groups. We believe that many marginalised communities are at risk of being excluded from the process of random selection of panel participants and we want the EU institutions to ensure fair representation of all groups. They should be included in the the organisation of the citizens’ panels and the other segments of the Conference. Achieving the goals of the conference and establishing the connection of citizens with EU institutions requires the representation of population diversity. This means that ALL voices need to be heard by providing the space for free expression.